Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Chapter 11 - Which tells of the deposition of the consistory and the suspension of the pastor.

 On December 9, 1924, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, the classis reconvened, this time in the auditorium of the Oakdale Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.

Public interest in the case had grown keen and the auditorium was filled.

The pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church was permitted to read the answer of the consistory before the meeting.

Classis, however, did not enter into a discussion of the consistory’s communication, nor was any attempt made to refute the arguments of the consistory.  The reply was immediately referred to the classical committee that was appointed for this case, in order that it might have opportunity to confer with the theological professors.  Then the classis promptly adjourned.

On the following day, December 10, the committee appeared before the classis with the advice that this body should now do directly what the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had refused to do, and through its president place the pastor before the two questions previously mentioned.  This advice was adopted.

The pastor asked the classis to give him time until the following morning, not because there was any doubt in his mind what the answer should be, but because, under the circumstances he preferred to compose a written and well motivated answer to the questions of the classis.  This was granted.

In the evening of the same day the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church assembled to consider the case.  In the minutes of December 10, 1924, we find the following item: “Art. 4. The Consistory decides to protest against the action of Classis, whereby, disregarding the appeal of the Consistory to Synod, it placed the pastor directly before its question.”

This protest was executed by means of a written communication to the classis, which read as follows:

“Worthy Brethren:

“The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, convened in special session on Dec. 10, 1924, passed the following resolutions:

“Whereas Classis Grand Rapids East, in its session of Dec. 10, 1924, decided to place the pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, directly, on the floor of the classis, before the questions contained in a communication of Classis Grand Rapids East to the Consistory of Eastern Avenue, and dated Nov. 24, 1924, which questions the consistory of Eastern Avenue refused to ask of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema;

“Whereas Classis did not enter into a discussion of and failed to reply to the answer which the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Church brought before Classis in its communication of Dec. 9, 1924, in which communication the Consistory mentions the reasons why it denies to the Classis the right to demand of said Consistory that they place their pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, before said questions;

“Therefore be it resolved by the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church:

“Hereby to protest against the action taken by Classis Grand Rapids East in her session of Dec. 10, 1924, whereby Classis decided directly to ask the pastor the questions which the Consistory refused to ask of him. Grounds:

“a. This action is wholly in conflict with Reformed Church Polity and that according to the very communication of Classis dated Nov. 24, 1924, to said Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in which communication Classis declares that any form of discipline must be exercised in the order of Consistory, Classis, and Synod.

“b. It is a form of discipline applied by a broader gathering directly to an officebearer of a congregation and proceeds from the assumption that Classis has superior authority, a certain guardianship over the churches, yea over the very persons of the churches.  This is still worse than Collegialism, it is popish.

“c. Because this action was taken in spite of the fact, that the Consistory had appealed to Synod, as is evident from its communication to Classis Grand Rapids East, dated Dec. 8, 1924.

“Respectfully submitted,

“The Consistory,

“H. Hoeksema, Pres.

“S.G. Schaafsma, Clerk.”

As to the pastor, in spite of the fact that the classis could not possibly have the right to interpellate him directly, he prepared his written answer to the classis, which he read to his consistory at that same special session of December 10, 1924.

It here follows in full:

“Worthy Brethren:

“Undersigned respectfully submits the following to your consideration in answer to your communication of Dec. 10, 1924, in which communication the Classis Grand Rapids East requests an answer of the undersigned with respect to two matters relative to the decisions of Synod, 1924, cf. Acts of Synod, 1924, p. 145 ff.

“1. That undersigned is aggrieved by the fact that said Classis Grand Rapids East utterly failed to pay any attention to a communication received by said Classis from the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, relative to the question whether the Classis had the right, in light of the Acts of Synod, 1924, concerning this matter, to ask said questions of the pastor of Eastern Avenue per its Consistory; which communication was not even discussed on the floor of Classis;

“2. That undersigned is aggrieved and must protest against the action of Classis, as reported in said communication of said Classis to undersigned, whereby Classis simply ignored the appeal of said Consistory of Eastern Avenue and, discarding the appeal, approaches undersigned once more with the same question;

“3. That undersigned fully agrees with all the declarations of the said Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, as contained in its communication to Classis dated Dec. 8, 1924;

“4. That undersigned, therefore, also appeals to Synod against the interpretation Classis Grand Rapids East offers of the decisions of Synod 1924; this appeal to take place in the same manner as that of the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, as contained in said communication of said Consistory to Classis and dated Dec. 8, 1924;

“5. That in the meantime, however, undersigned will submit under protest to the decision of Classis Grand Rapids East, with the right of appeal to Synod, and chooses to answer to the questions of said Classis as contained in its communication to undersigned dated Dec. 10, 1924; and he answers to these questions as follows:

“a. Considering that the Synod of 1924 interpreted our Confessions in such a manner, that no one needs to agree with the Three Points adopted by Synod 1924 (cf. Acts of Synod, 1924, p. 145 ff.) in order to be fundamentally Reformed in the basic truths as formulated in our Confessions, therefore, undersigned hereby declares that he always was and still is in harmony with the Confessions as interpreted by Synod 1924;

“b. Considering that Synod admonishes the leaders of our Churches to make serious study of the problems recently brought to the foreground, in preaching, lectures and writings, undersigned promises that he especially will heed this admonition of Synod and will co-operate in brotherly spirit in order to reach a solution of the afore-mentioned problems.

“c. Undersigned, as long as he is an officebearer in the Christian Reformed Churches, submits himself gladly to any decision of the Synod of these Churches.

                        “Respectfully submitted,

                        “H. Hoeksema.”

In the morning session of the classis on December 11, both the protest of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church and the answer of the pastor to the questions of the classis were read and accepted.

The classis decided to place both the documents in the hands of its committee and again adjourned until the afternoon of the same day.

Nothing was ever heard again about the protest by the consistory.  As far as any definite knowledge of this matter is concerned, the committee may have thrown it in the waste basket.

With respect to the reply by the pastor, however, the committee advised the classis to declare that the pastor in his answer to classis had evaded the issue; to decide to place the pastor before the same questions directly on the floor of the classis and through its president; and to demand of the pastor of Eastern Avenue that he should answer by “Yes” or “No”!

This advice was adopted.

Accordingly the chairman solemnly asked the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, whether or not he could declare himself in agreement with the Three Points adopted by Synod 1924; and whether or not, with the right of appeal, he would promise to acquiesce in these decisions of Synod and not agitate against them in speaking or writing.

The pastor replied that the classis was in possession of his answer to their question in the form in which he choose to leave that answer; and that this written reply was positively the final answer they could expect of him.

Thereupon some of the members of the classis began to exercise all their powers of persuasion to make the pastor submit to the demands of the classis.  It was urged that the classis did not really desire a breach!  It had made its demands upon the pastor as gentle as possible; they could easily be complied with.  Even if the pastor of Eastern Avenue could not declare himself in agreement with the Three Points, he certainly would not force his conscience by the promise to keep still about them and not to make by public propaganda against them.  In the meantime he could appeal to the synod of 1926 and bring his objections against the “Three Points” before that body in an orderly and legal manner.

Let it here be stated, eleven years after that memorable session of Classis Grand Rapids East, that if such a promise could, indeed, have been made without a violation of the truth and the dictates of conscience before God and the Christian Reformed Churches, the pastor of Eastern Avenue would certainly have made it.  For, he, too, did not desire a breach.

He felt, however, that this was impossible.

He was convinced that it was absolutely impossible to preach and teach in his own congregation, without touching upon and contradicting the principle expressed in the Three Points.

And he also felt that it would be a breach of promise on his part if he should refrain from publicly warning the churches against the false doctrines adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo.  For, when he signed the Formula of Subscription he promised, that he would maintain and defend the Reformed doctrine as expressed in the Formulas of Unity.

Therefore, he could not promise to comply with the demands of the classis.

Instead, he, too, began to plead with the classis.  He offered that he would be willing to take the chair of a candidate and to submit himself to an examination by classis, on condition that such examination would take place on the basis of the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions.  If, then, he argued, the classis should discover any heresy in his views, he could be disciplined with justice and in harmony with the formula of Subscription he had signed.

It was of no avail.

Classis did not take the risk.

They were too well aware of the fact, that the pastor could easily pass such an examination; and that the outcome would be that also the classis, even as the Synod of Kalamazoo had been compelled to declare, would have to come to the conclusion that the pastor was fundamentally Reformed, and that, therefore, there was no ground for action.

The classis, therefore, insisted on its own demands.

When, on the following day, December 12, 1924, the classis met again, the committee had prepared a report in which it advised that the classis should declare:

“1. That the Reverend H. Hoeksema, in his answer to the question placed before him by the classis, had evaded the issue;

“2. That in the afternoon session of the classis on December 11 he had refused to answer the classical questions with an unequivocal “Yes” or “No”;

“3. That he had definitely declared that he would not submit himself to the synodical decisions in re the “Three Points”;

“4. That he had refused to promise not openly to teach, in preaching or in writing, anything repugnant to the “Three Points”;

“5. That, therefore, he was guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities;

“6. That, therefore, he was, by his own act, suspended from his office as minister of the Word of God, for the time being:

“7. That for the time being and until final determination in the case were made by the Synod, he should be denied all the rights and privileges connected with the office of a minister in the Christian Reformed Church.”

With respect to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church the committee advised that the classis declare:

“1. That the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church had refused to carry out the decision of the classis with respect to the censure of the three members that had accused the pastor of public sin.

“2. That the consistory had refused to maintain the decrees of the synod of 1924;

“3. That it had refused to submit to the decisions of the classis with respect to the questions the classis demanded of the consistory to ask its pastor;

“4. That, therefore, the consistory was guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities;

“5. That, therefore, by this act the consistory, for the time being severed its connection with the Christian Reformed Church;

“6. That, for the time being and until final determination in the case was made by the synod, the consistory be denied all rights and privileges connected with the ecclesiastical connection of a consistory with the Christian Reformed Church.”

A motion was made to adopt the advice of the committee concerning the suspension from office of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.

Here an incident may be recorded that had no real bearing on the course of this history, but that created considerable excitement at the time of its occurrence.

Before the vote concerning the suspension of the Reverend H. Hoeksema was taken, the classis decided to offer special prayer.

The pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church arose and kindly requested to be excused from the meeting during this special prayer.  He left.

His reason for this act, which by some was severely criticized as an act of profanity, may also be mentioned in this connection.

There is, first, the general reason that the pastor had always been opposed to such special prayers.  At the beginning of each session a classis calls upon God’s Name and invokes His blessing and guidance on all its deliberations and transactions during that session.  Unless, then, a classis feels for certain reasons that the Lord did not hear this prayer, or if special difficulties should arise from which the classis cannot extricate itself, this prayer cannot be repeated.

On that particular morning of the twelfth of December, however, there were no special difficulties of which the classis was aware.  The situation was such that it was rather a foregone conclusion that the classis would vote in favor of the motion to suspend the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church.  The matter in the judgment of the classis was so clear, that the only prayer the classis could in all honesty and sincerity offer was that the vote might decide the suspension of the pastor.  In such a prayer, however, the pastor could not very well participate, for it was the firm conviction of the pastor that the desire of the classis was contrary to the will of God.  To him the prayer the classis was about to offer was an ungodly prayer.

Besides, the pastor felt that no prayer could possibly serve as a substitute for a thorough and open discussion of the case and of proper procedure.  Classis had always refused to discuss the case openly on the floor of the classis.  It had followed the method of a correspondence course between the Classical Committee and the theological professors on the one side and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church on the other.  Neither the pastor nor the classis had been witness to the deliberations that led to the final advice of the committee.  Only the conclusions of the committee had been brought to the attention of the classis.  No apparently pious prayer could remedy this corrupt method.

Then, too, the prayer of the classis was repulsive to the pastor, because he felt that the classis understood full well that they could not justly suspend the pastor from his office as a minister of the Word of God.  He had not departed from the Scriptures, nor from the teachings of the Reformed Confessions.  Of this the classis was well aware.  It had even refused to examine the pastor in the light of the Word of God and of the Reformed Standards.  The pastor considered that prayer an act of consummate hypocrisy.

It was, then, quite impossible for the pastor to participate in this prayer of the classis.  His prayer had been and still was that the Lord might open the eyes of the brethren, frustrate their evil plans, and prevent the consummation of their unjust intentions.

There was, therefore, no other course open to the pastor than to excuse himself from the meeting and offer up his own private prayer to the Most High.

And that course he followed.

The outcome of the vote was entirely according to expectations.

Almost unanimously (there was only one dissenting vote) it was decided that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church was suspended from his office of the ministry of the Word of God in the Christian Reformed Church.

And it was further decided to declare that the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities and, therefore, had severed its connections with the Christian Reformed Church and had forfeited all the rights and privileges of a consistory in the Christian Reformed Church.

A strange procedure!

It reveals how deeply the classis was imbued with the spirit of hierarchy.

For, what else is it than the expression of the spirit of hierarchy, when the classis speaks of insubordination on the part of the pastor to the proper ecclesiastical authorities?

Does, then, according to sound Reformed Church Polity a classis have the power and authority over the pastor of a local congregation?

According to the Form of Ordination of the Ministers of the Word of God, used in Reformed Churches, a pastor at his installation is supposed to answer affirmatively to the question: “Whether thou feelest in thy heart that thou art lawfully called of God’s Church, and therefore of God Himself, to this holy ministry?”  This question refers to the call by the local congregation.  In this calling no classis has a part.  This call by the congregation is considered God’s calling to the ministry of the Word.  Can a classis, then, possibly have the power to interfere with this call of God through the local congregation?  It ought to be evident that God’s call to the minister remains as long as the congregation calls him.  It ought to be perfectly lucid, moreover, that only the local congregation through their consistory can have power and authority to suspend their minister from his office.  Classis Grand Rapids East trampled underfoot the authority of the local congregation and its consistory, and assumed a power which it could not, and did not possess, when it declared that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities and was, therefore, suspended from office.

It is characteristic of hierarchy to raise the authority of men above that of God, and to deny the autonomy of the local church.

That Classis Grand Rapids East became guilty of this assumption of a power which it did not possess, is also evident from Article 5 of the Church Order.

It deals with the calling of ministers who have not been previously in office, and it stipulates that this calling consists:

“First in the election by the Consistory and the Deacons, after preceding prayers, with due observance of the regulations established by the Consistory for this purpose, and of the ecclesiastical ordinance, that only those can for the first time be called to the Ministry of the Word who have been declared eligible by the church, according to the rule in this matter; and furthermore with the advice of the Classis or of the counselor appointed for this purpose by the Classis;

“Secondly, in the examination both of doctrine and life, which shall be conducted by the Classis, to which the call must be submitted for approval, and which shall take place in the presence of three delegates of Synod from the nearest Classis;

“Thirdly, in the approbation by the members of the calling church, when, the name of the minister having been announced for two successive Sundays, no lawful objection arises; which approbation, however, is not required in case the election takes place with the cooperation of the congregation choosing out of a nomination previously made;

“Finally in the public ordination in the presence of the congregation which shall take place with appropriate stipulations and interrogations, admonitions and prayers and imposition of hands by the officiating minister (and by other ministers who are present) agreeably to the Form for that purpose.”

From this article it is evident that it is the congregation through its consistory that calls a minister.  The classis merely advises and approves and assists the local congregation, in harmony with the bond of fellowship existing between the local congregation and the other churches in the same denomination.  There is no mention whatever in this article of any authority of the classis in calling or appointing a minister in a local congregation; neither of any such authority on the part of the classis over the minister after he has been duly called and installed into the office of a minister of the Word of God.  When, therefore, Classis Grand Rapids East declared that the minister of Eastern Avenue Church had become guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities, while he lived and labored in perfect harmony with his consistory and congregation, it spoke the language of Roman Catholic Hierarchy.

That this is true may be further corroborated by referring to Article 79 of the Church Order:

“When ministers of the Divine Word, Elders or Deacons have committed any public, gross sin, which is a disgrace to the Church, or worthy of punishment by the authorities, the Elders and Deacons shall immediately by preceding sentence of the Consistory thereof and the nearest church  be suspended or expelled from their office, but the Ministers shall only be suspended.  Whether these shall be entirely deposed from office, shall be subject to the judgment of the Classis with the advice of the Delegates of Synod mentioned in Article 11.”

Notice that this article stipulates that a minister of the Word of God shall always first be suspended, before he is finally deposed from office; and that this suspension is a matter that belongs, not to the jurisdiction of the classis, but to that of the local consistory.  That the final deposition of a minister must be submitted to the judgment of the classis, is not due to any authority of the classis over the minister or over the local congregation, but to the peculiar relation of the local minister to the entire denomination.  Classis Grand Rapids East, therefore, in suspending the Reverend H. Hoeksema directly, without any action on the part of the consistory of Eastern Avenue Church, ignored the authority of this consistory.

It may be objected that the case of Classis Grand Rapids East over against the pastor and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was somewhat extraordinary and that extraordinary cases call for the application of extraordinary measures.  For, while the classis judged that the Reverend H. Hoeksema was worthy of suspension, the consistory was of a directly opposite opinion and wanted to maintain him.

But this does not alter the case.

In such a case all a classis can do is respect the authority of a consistory and refrain from interference.  A minister that is maintained by the consistory and local congregation which he serves can never properly be suspended or deposed from office.

No extraordinary circumstances can justify a classis to take the place and assume the authority of a consistory.

Classis Grand Rapids East, then, instead of proceeding to suspend the minister of the Eastern Avenue Church, would, first of all, have respected the appeal by the consistory of this church to the synod of 1926.  The consistory had repeatedly informed the classis that it appealed to synod.  The classis simply ignored this appeal.  It took the reins in its own hands and virtually denied the right of appeal to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church.

If this appeal had been respected and carried out, and if the synod of 1926 had agreed with the classis in the matter and had advised that the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church was guilty and worthy of deposition, the matter would still have been up to the consistory.  If, moreover, even then the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church would have disagreed with the decisions and advice of the synod and would have refused to suspend its minister, the classis still would have lacked the power to take matters in its own hands and proceed to do what the consistory refused to do.  All the broader gathering could have accomplished in that case is that it might have declared the recalcitrant consistory outside the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches.  The minister, however, would remain in office.

It is true, that the classis had merely declared that the pastor by his own act was suspended from office; and by this expression the classis appears to refer to the wording of the Formula of Subscription in which we read: that the minister will always cheerfully submit to an examination in regard to the matter of doctrine and will acquiesce in the judgment of the consistory, classis or synod under penalty in case of refusal, of being ipso facto, by that very act, suspended from office.

But this reference to the Formula of Subscription, evidently intended by the classis, is, nevertheless, mistaken.

For, notice in the first place, that the Formula speaks of the judgment of the consistory, the classis or the synod, which is surely to be understood in that very order.  However, Classis Grand Rapids East had substituted the “Three Points” for the Formulas of Unity, and had positively refused to examine the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions.

Finally, let us recall that according to the very declaration of the Synod of Kalamazoo the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was not guilty of a breach of promise in respect to the Formula of Subscription.  For, by signing that Formula the pastor had promised that he would always teach and defend the truth of the Word of God s expressed in the Reformed Confessions; and the synod had expressly declared that the pastor was fundamentally Reformed with respect to the truths formulated in those confessions.

It is evident that the Formula of Subscription could not be applied in this case.

The act of Classis Grand Rapids East, whereby it presumed to suspend the minister of the Eastern Avenue Church from his office, must always appear in history as characterized by a wanton assumption of power and gross injustice.

Still more strange is the decision of the classis with respect to the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

As to the church-political principles from which it proceeded, it is apparently a mixture of Collegialism and Reformed Church Polity.

Collegialism is the name of a form of Church-government which attributes authority and power to a broader gathering over a local consistory.  Over against this view the Reformed conception maintains that the local church is autonomous and that the only governing body in the local congregation is the consistory.

It must be immediately evident that the classis proceeded from the collegialistic conception, when it declared that the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities, because it had refused to maintain the decisions of Classis Grand Rapids East regarding a censure case in the congregation, and because it had refused to accede to the request of the classis to place its pastor before certain questions formulated by the classis.  This is Collegialism pure and simple.  For, there are no proper ecclesiastical authorities above the local consistory, except Christ Himself.  And, therefore, no Reformed mind could think of speaking of the insubordination of a consistory to classis.

There is, however, on the other hand, an evident attempt on the part of the classis in this decision regarding the deposition of the consistory, to adhere as closely as possible to the principles of Reformed Church Polity.  For, the decision regarding this matter does not speak directly of the deposition of the consistory, but merely declares that it had broken all connections with the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches.  This part of the classical decision, though by no means just and based on sufficient grounds, is undoubtedly correct from a formal church-political point of view. Classis, therefore, confused and tried to combine the Collegialistic and the Reformed conception of Church Polity.

Nor is it difficult to explain this confusion.

On the one hand it must be remembered that for years the Christian Reformed Churches had been permeated with Collegialistic principles of Church-government.  So deeply had these false principles struck root that a large number of Christian Reformed people, perhaps, a majority of them, cannot even understand the correct principle that no broader gathering can exercise authority over a local consistory.  It was but natural, therefore, that in as far as the classis acted spontaneously and on its own initiative, it became Collegialistic and declared itself to be the proper ecclesiastical authorities over the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

On the other hand, the classis was advised and somewhat influenced by Dr. J. Van Lonkhuyzen, who for years had advocated and fought a stubborn battle in favor of the better and Reformed view, that a classis cannot lord it over a consistory.  It was under this influence that the classis merely declared the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church to be outside of the denomination.

            Yet, not quite understanding this principle, and still imagining that a classis has authority over a consistory, it declared at the same time that the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was guilty of insubordination to the proper ecclesiastical authorities!

From a formal viewpoint it is, therefore, a Reformed decision with a Collegialistic basis.

Chapter 10 - What the consistory did in the classical interim.

During the classical recess the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church did not remain idle.

In the first place, they decided upon and executed a most extraordinary and unprecedented measure of discipline; which was, however, fully justified by the most extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances that occasioned it and made it necessary.

Let us, then, first recall those circumstances.

The “Ninety-two” had very definitely severed their connection with the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  In their appeal to the classis they had emphatically declared that they had broken with the consistory. Besides, they had repeatedly claimed that they were the congregation proper, the true and faithful members.  From all this it must be perfectly evident that they had resigned from their membership of the Church as it was then constituted.  For, in spite of their allegations it must be admitted that the functioning consistory was still the only legal consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church; and it was clearly acknowledged as such by the classis.

  Now, it is sound Reformed Church Polity to accept the resignation of a church member that gives official notice of such resignation to the consistory.

When any single member appears before the consistory to resign for his membership, the consistory will for a time labor with such a member and try to show him the evil of this way.  But if such a member persists in his resignation the only thing a consistory can do is accept.

And the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church had always followed this rule in the past.

Besides, it must be borne in mind that this particular resignation of the “Ninety-two” had assumed a very peculiar form.  They had resigned with the claim that they were the congregation proper and that they, therefore, had deposed the actually functioning consistory!  The consistory was, therefore, compelled to choose between two alternatives: to permit the revolutionary movement of the “Ninety-two,” admit that they were the congregation proper and acknowledge their own deposition; or to treat them as rebellious members that had officially resigned for their membership of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

The consistory decided upon the latter course.

It may probably be objected that, before the consistory could conscientiously accept the resignation of these members, they should have labored with them for a season.

Under ordinary circumstances this certainly should have been done.  Under the existing, extraordinary circumstances however, this was a practical impossibility through no fault of the consistory.  The “ninety-two” had taken the matter to the classis with the request that this broader gathering should support them in their contention that they were the congregation proper and that the consistory was deposed.  The classis had received their request and, in part, had acted upon it, though the matter had not yet been decided.  The classis, therefore, had really become a party to this revolutionary movement of the “Ninety-two.”  Under these circumstances it became imperative for the consistory to act before the classis would meet again on December 9.  It was, therefore, because of the very action of the “Ninety-two” and of the classis, impossible for the consistory to labor with all the signers of the appeal to the classis individually.

Besides, the consistory decided to meet with this difficulty in part by offering the signers of the appeal to the classis a final opportunity to retract their resignation. This left the entire matter to their own choice and decision.

Now, the protest of the “Ninety-two,” that had been delivered to the classis before the consistory had received a copy, was presented to the consistory in its meeting of November 25, that is, the day following the adjournment of the classis.

The matter was, therefore, now legally before the consistory:

And it decided to pass the following resolution:

“Considering that there has been brought to the attention of this, the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, a certain printed communication or pamphlet, signed by several members of said Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, said to be ninety-two in number and whose names are set forth below, and are hereinafter referred to as the subscribers;

“Considering, that said communication was addressed to the Classis Grand Rapids East of the Christian Reformed Churches, assembled the 19th of November 1924, and purported to be a protest or remonstrance on the part of the subscribers against the pastor and the consistory of said church or congregation;

“Considering, that among other things contained and set forth in said communication the following statements appear, namely:

“ ‘It has become impossible for us to listen any longer to the preaching of Reverend H. Hoeksema as our pastor.  Many of us refuse to send our children to the catechism because we do not entrust them to the teaching of our pastor.  Some of us refuse to present our children to baptism and we all refuse to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with pastor and consistory.  In one word, we have practically broken with both consistory and pastor, and that because of their refusal to submit to synodical and classical decisions.’

“ ‘One more thing before we inform you about the history we made in Eastern Avenue since the last Classis.  From what appears before Classis it is evident that a certain measure of cooperation has taken place on the part of those who sign this pamphlet.  We do not care to conceal this.  We are of the opinion that we not only have the right to this but that duty calls us to such action.  This action is entirely in harmony with our standpoint, and we are of the opinion that the consistory has, in fact, broken church connections.  Now, against such a consistory we cannot sin by protesting together.  By virtue of the office of believers we had broken our cooperation with that consistory.’

“Considering that said declaration on the part of said subscribers constitutes and is, in effect, an open renunciation on the part of said subscribers of their respective membership in said church or congregation, and a refusal on their part to partake in the rights, benefits and privileges belonging or appertaining to such members;

“Considering, that by reason of said signing of aforesaid pamphlet on the part of said subscribers, the said consistory is bound to take notice thereof, and to act accordingly;

“Considering, further, that said consistory and pastor are willing at all times to abide by the decisions of any larger or broader assemblies of said church in respect to any matters of discipline, doctrine or government that may be properly brought before such bodies;

“Considering, that said subscribers have by signing of said pamphlet or communication, asserted a refusal on their part to abide by the decisions or findings of such larger or broader assemblies:

“Therefore, be it resolved by said consistory of said Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church that the said signers and subscriber of said pamphlet or communication be, and they are hereby, suspended or removed from further membership or communion with said church or congregation (subject, however, to any provisions of the Church Order).  Provided, and be it.

“Further resolved by said consistory, that a copy of this resolution shall be mailed to each of said subscribers at his or her last known place of address by United States Registered Mail; and that a notice attached thereto shall provide that said subscriber shall either in person or by writing appear before said consistory at its usual place of meeting at said Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in said city of Grand Rapids at a special meeting to be held Thursday, December 4th, at 7:45 P.M., and then and there answer the following question:

“Do you or do you not acknowledge yourself to be in full membership and communion with the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, as now constituted?

“And be it further resolved that the effect and force of this resolution shall not apply to any of said subscribers who shall before said consistory meeting affirmatively subscribe or assent to said question, except as to members already under censure.”

If the reader should receive the impression from the language of this document that the consistory, too, had been seeking legal advice, it may be stated that this impression is correct.

It was decided, moreover, to give notice of this action to the classis and to offer a copy of this document to that body as soon as it should resume its sessions.  Each of the “Ninety-two” received a copy of this resolution together with the request to appear before the consistory of December 4.  None of them, however, appeared. Their resignation was definitely accepted.

From that date the classis treated the case of protestants that had no connection with any church.

At that same meeting of November 25, the consistory appointed a committee, consisting of the pastor and the clerk, Mr. S.G. Schaafsma, to prepare a properly motivated reply to the last communication of the classis.  At the consistory meeting of December 9 this proposed reply was read in both the Holland and the English language.  This reply, as it was approved and adopted by the consistory, reads as follows:

“Classis Grand Rapids East, assembled in special session on December 9, in the Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Dear Brethren:

“The consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church received and took notice of the contents of a communication of Classis Grand Rapids East, dated November 24, 1924, in which the classis requires of the consistory that it ask its pastor, the Reverend H. Hoeksema, whether he is in full agreement with the Three Points as expressed by Synod, cf. Acts of Synod, 1924, Art. 132, p. 145 ff., and, secondly, whether he will submit with the right of appeal to the Confessional Standards of the Church as interpreted by Synod of 1924.

“The consistory of said Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church respectfully submits to your attention the following answer:

“I. The Consistory calls the attention of Classis to the fact that in placing the Consistory before this double requirement mentioned above Classis interferes with matters that are not legally, according to Church Order, brought to the attention of Classis:

“(1) Because Classis enters in upon these matters upon the basis of two overtures, one from the Consistory of the Dennis Avenue Christian Reformed Church, and one from the Consistory of the Creston Christian Reformed Church, both of Grand Rapids.  These overtures are not legally in accordance with the Church Order, before the Classis;

“(2) Because not Classis Grand Rapids East, but the consistory of said Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church is the proper body to receive such overtures in the first place.  Art. 30 of the Church Order states: ‘In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies.’  And according to the communication of Classis Grand Rapids East herein referred to, in Reformed Church Government the rule is that disciplinary procedure must be exercised by the Church judicatories in the order of Consistory, Classis and synod and not vice versa. Communication, p. 1.

“(3) Because, even if the Consistories of the Dennis Avenue Christian Reformed Church and of the Creston Christian Reformed Church did possess the right to apply immediately to Classis without acknowledging the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, which they certainly did not possess, they should have served copies of said overtures upon the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church. The Eastern Avenue Consistory is not aware of the contents of these overtures to this day.

“(4) Because not even a Classical Agendum or Program was received by which the Consistory of Eastern Avenue might be duly notified of these overtures to Classis from the consistories of Dennis Avenue and of Creston. The Consistory of Eastern Avenue was held in complete ignorance with respect to said overtures.

“(5) Because in the past Classis Grand Rapids East ruled that similar overtures presented by consistories to Classis in a similar manner were not acceptable. (Cf. Minutes of Classis Grand Rapids East, Sept. 1913.)  An overture appeared at that time on the agendum of Classis from the Consistory of the Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church, requesting the Classis to express its disapproval of the stand taken by Reverend J. Groen with regard to woman suffrage.  The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of which at that time the Reverend Groen was pastor, decided to place the following resolution on the letter of credentials for its delegates to classis:

“ ‘The Consistory requests Classis not to deal with the overture from the Oakdale Park Consistory in re the pastor of Eastern Avenue since this would be in direct opposition to our Reformed Church Polity and would imply not only an insult against the pastor, but also a total disregard of the Consistory. The Consistory, therefore, feels obliged to protest against such action.’ (Minutes of the Consistory of Eastern Avenue,  Sept. 10, 1913.)

“Among the grounds upon which the above resolution was to be defended by the delegates to Classis, the minutes of said Consistory contain the following:

“ ‘It is disciplinary action applied by a major assembly upon the pastor of a congregation and proceeds upon the assumption that Classis may exercise a sort of supreme authority and guardianship over the churches.  This is worse than collegialistic, this is popish.  Classis has power only to serve with advice regarding a matter of discipline to be executed by the local consistory.

“ ‘The accusing party did not make a single attempt to deal with the accused according to Matthew 18.’

“ ‘The accusing part did not apply to the Consistory of the accused.  This is an unheard of disregard for the authority and rights of the Consistory.’

“(As a matter of mere curiosity and interest in the case before Classis at present, it may be added that the last ground of Consistory against the overture of Oakdale Park reads as follows:

“ ‘The case is a social, political question and is not properly decided by an ecclesiastical assembly.  For what belongs to the sphere of the Church?

“ ‘1. The domain of special grace.

“ ‘2. Matters pertaining to the offices in the Church, for outside of these the Church has not executive organs.

“ ‘3. That which concerns fundamental truths in connection with the way of salvation.)

“And lastly we quote from the Minutes of said Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Sept. 26, 1913 the following:

“ ‘The delegates to Classis assembled Sept. 17 give a report.  From the report it appears that Classis did not enter in upon the request of the Oakdale Park Consistory, namely, to express disapproval of the stand taken by the Reverend J. Groen in re Woman Suffrage.’

“On the basis of all these grounds the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church contends that Classis did not act in conformity with Reformed Church Polity and Government when it entered upon the discussion of the overtures of the Consistories of the Dennis Avenue and the Creston Christian Reformed Churches, declared these overtures legal and acted upon the request continued therein.

“The Consistory therefore, protests against this action of the Classis Grand Rapids East, and hereby serves notice upon Classis that in due time and in the proper way it will appeal the case to Synod.

“In the meantime, the Consistory respectfully but urgently requests that Classis interfere no further with what is so clearly none of her business until such a time as Synod shall have expressed itself in the matter.

“II. Submitting, however, under protest, the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church considered the contents of the communication received from Classis Grand Rapids East and dated Nov. 4, 1924. To it the Consistory respectfully submits the answer following hereinafter.

“A.  There is, evidently a difference of opinion between Classis Grand Rapids East and the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church with regard to the proper interpretation of the decisions and acts of the Synod of 1924 with respect to the teachings of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  The difference concisely stated appears to be as follows:

“1. Classis contends:

“a. That the only matters that were properly before Synod 1924 are the ‘doctrinal issues involved in the Common grace Controversy.’ (communication, p. 1.)

“b. That disciplinary procedure could not be followed and disciplinary action could not be taken by Synod, since this was not properly before Synod, seeing that disciplinary action must be exercised by the Church judicatories in the order of consistory, Classis and synod and not vice versa. (Communication, p. 1.)

“c. That Synod fully ‘sustained the protests against the teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema in re the three points’ (Communication, p. 1.)

“d. That ‘Synod left it to the Consistory to enforce the doctrinal decrees of Synod,’ (Communication, p. 1.)

“2. The Consistory of Eastern Avenue contends:

“a. That the matters that were properly before Synod of 1924 and upon which said Synod was in duty bound to act and did act were not only the doctrinal issues involved in the Common Grace Controversy, but also definite complaints lodged against the teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, requests that the be required to retract his teachings and that he should be disciplined even to suspension from office and deposition in case he should refuse to submit.

“b. That Synod was very well aware of the fact that these matters regarding disciplinary procedure in the case against Reverend H. Hoeksema were properly before its body, since they had been appealed from the Consistory to Classis and Classis to Synod, and, therefore, could be dealt with by Synod in full conformity with Art. 30 of the Church Order.

“c. That Synod did not fully sustain the protests against the teachings of Reverend H. Hoeksema in re the three points, neither with regard to the material and doctrinal contents of these protests, nor with regard to the demand for disciplinary procedure contained in them.

“d. That there is not a single item of proof in the Acts of Synod, 1924, for the contention that Synod intended to leave the enforcement of disciplinary rules to the minor assemblies.  On the contrary, there is an abundance of evidence that Synod did not intend disciplinary action whatsoever.

“e. That, therefore, the entire case having been appealed to Synod, 1924, and said Synod having ruled in the matter, the case is a closed one, and no minor assembly possesses the right to lodge the same complaints anew. This is in conformity with Art. 46 of the Church Order: ‘Instructions concerning matters to be considered by major assemblies shall not be written until the decision of previous synods touching these matters have been read, in order that what was once decided be not against proposed unless a revision be deemed necessary.’

“f. It is not the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, but Classis that is not satisfied with the decisions of Synod in re the teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  And, therefore, if classis desires a revision of said decisions of said Synod, Classis must appeal and send an overture regarding this matter to Synod.

“B. Proof of Consistory’s Contention:

“1. That the matters which were properly before Synod 1924 and upon which said Synod was in duty bound to act and did act were not only the doctrinal issues involved in the Common Grace Controversy, but definite complaints lodged against the teachings of Reverend H. Hoeksema, requests that he be required to retract and that he should be disciplined even to suspension from office and to deposition in case he should refuse to submit.

“Proof:

“a. Before Synod was a protest signed by J. De Hoog, W. Hoeksema and H. Vander Vennen, entitled ‘To the Classis Grand Rapids East of the Christian Reformed Church, assembled May 21, 1924,’ and in the form of a printed pamphlet.  This protest was before Synod on the basis of an appeal made from the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church to Classis Grand Rapids East, and from Classis to Synod 1924. Said protest was duly received by Synod 1924, as is evident from the report of the Synodical Committee ad hoc, to be found in the Acts of Synod 1924, p. 114: ‘Protest against Classis Grand Rapids East and appeal to Synod by three members of the congregation of Eastern Avenue, H. Vander Vennen, J. De Hoog and W. Hoeksema, in re their protest against their pastor and Consistory, which protest was referred back to the Consistory of Eastern Avenue by Classis Grand Rapids East, May 21.’  This protest and appeal was declared to be legally before Synod and accepted by that body as is evident from the following: (Cf. Acts of Synod, 1924, pp. 116, 117.)

“ ‘The Committee advises to maintain this protest.  Grounds:

“ ‘(1) The Consistory has had sufficient time to make a beginning with the treatment of this protest of these brethren against their pastor, which it did not do.

“ ‘(2) Classis Grand Rapids East should have acted upon this protest in her session of May 21, on the above mentioned ground.

“ ‘(3) The case has now reached such a stage that with a view to the well-being of the Church Synodical treatment is demanded.’

“This advice of the Committee was adopted by Synod, as is evident from the acts of Synod, 1924, p. 138:

“Now from said protest, legally acted upon by Synod, we quote the following:

“From p. 4:

“ ‘Esteemed Brethren:

“ ‘Undersigned, members of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, consider themselves obliged, though very loath to do so, to protest against the doctrine of our pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema.’

“From pp. 11, 12:

“ ‘Whereas he, however, assured us, that he would never change his standpoint and gave evidence of this in sermon and speech, we offer you herewith our protest, kindly but urgently requesting you to accept this protest as your own and to attempt to convince our pastor of his errors, in order that, if it might be, he may retract them, and that you otherwise may follow the procedure prescribed to you.’

“From this it is evident, that Synod did not deal with abstract doctrinal issues but with definite complaints lodged against the teachings of Reverend H. Hoeksema, and with requests that the latter should be treated and disciplined.

“b. Before Synod was a Protest (Bezwaarschrift) addressed to the Consistories of the Christian Reformed Churches Kalamazoo I, and Eastern Avenue, Grand Rapids, Mich., signed by the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen and in the form of a printed pamphlet.  Said protest of the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen was before Synod in the way of appeal from the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, to Classis Grand Rapids East, and from Classis to Synod 1924.

“Said protest was duly received by Synod as is evident from the report of the Synodical Committee ad hoc, to be found in the Acts of Synod, 1924, p. 114: ‘Protest against Classis Grand Rapids East and appeal to Synod by Reverend J.K. Van Baalen in re his protest against the doctrine of Reverend H. Hoeksema, which protest was referred back to the Consistory of Eastern Avenue by Classis Grand Rapids East, assembled May 21.’

“This protest was declared legally before Synod and accepted by that body, as is evident from Acts of Synod, 1924, p. 117, III:

“ ‘Formally this protest is legally before Synod, since the double demand for such cases was complied with.

“ ‘Your committee advises Synod to maintain this protest.  Grounds:

“ ‘(1) The Consistory of Eastern Avenue unjustly demanded of Reverend J. K. Van Baalen, that he first confer with the pastor, in order then to appear before a combined consistory meeting of Eastern Avenue and Kalamazoo I, since:

“ ‘(a) The case in question falls under Art. 74 of the Church Order and Matthew 18 is not applicable.

“ ‘(b) The proposed combined consistory meeting could not be a legal consistory meeting.

“ ‘(2) Classis Grand Rapids East admitted the injustice of these demands and could have acted upon the material of this protest in her session of May 21.

“ ‘(3) The case has now reached such a stage that the well-being of the Churches demands Synodical treatment.’

“This advice of the Committee was adopted by Synod. (Cf. Acts of Synod, p. 138.)

“Now from said protest we quote the following:

“From p. 1:

‘Esteemed Brethren:

“ ‘When officebearers in the Christian Reformed Church openly propagate a doctrine which is in conflict with the Confession of our Church and the plain expressions of the Word of God, it is the sad but serious calling of their fellow-officebearers to refute them by pointing out to them as well as to the Churches in whose midst they propagate their false doctrine, the unreformed character of their views …

“ ‘If, however, a written and open refutation of the written and openly propagated erroneous views, together with a call to retract is of no avail, it becomes the no less sad yet no less serious calling to make the case pending with the consistories that have supervision over the doctrine and walk of those officebearers, with the urgent request that they will employ every available means to bring their fellow officebearers back from their error.

“ ‘Thus it is, alas, the case with the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

“ ‘Therefore, the undersigned thinks it necessary to turn to you, requesting you in the name of the Lord our God to treat this case in the proper church-political way.’

“From p. 2:

“ ‘We have to do here with open sins of officebearers, with a violation of what is promised by them in the Formula of Subscription of Ministers.’

“From p. 16:

“ ‘Esteemed Brethren: Undersigned hopes and prays that you may succeed to convince your pastors and to bring them to retract their unwarranted indictments against our churches, was well as their proposition indicated above.’

“It is evident that the Reverend Van Baalen did not bring an abstract question concerning doctrinal issues before Synod, but a very concrete case against Reverend H. Hoeksema, even alleging that the latter committed an open sin; that he demands retraction or discipline; and that Synod accepted all this as legally before it.

“c. The same is true of an overture sent to synod by Classis Grand Rapids East and which was an extract of the protest of the Reverend M. M. Schans.  Also this overture did not ask for the settlement of mere doctrinal issues, but for an investigation of the teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  And no less is this true of the protest of the Reverend J. Vander Mey.  All these documents were before Synod, legally accepted by that body and acted upon.  Abundant evident of the truth of the proposition of the Consistory expressed under I.

“2. That Synod was well aware of the fact that these matters regarding disciplinary procedure in the case of the Reverend H. Hoeksema were properly before its body since they had been appealed from Consistory to Classis and from Classis to Synod, and, therefore, could be dealt with in full conformity with Art. 30 of the Church Order. Proof:

“a. The committee appointed for the case in question while Synod was in session conceived of the matter in this light.  This is evident from the following extract of their full report, which for some reason unknown to us was not even printed in what is alleged to be a full report of that committee in the Acts of Synod, 1924:

“ ‘If Synod accepts the above points, the question arises immediately whether Synod must make a case of discipline of the matter by turning with the grievances against the pastors, H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema to their respective consistories.  Your committee judges that this would be less desirable:

“ ‘a. Because the brethren, according to their own repeated declarations do not want and purpose anything but to teach and maintain the Reformed doctrine, the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and of the Confessions, and we gladly accept of them that they erred in good faith; and

“ ‘b. Because it cannot be denied that in the fundamental truths as they are formulated in our Confessions they are Reformed, even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness.

“ ‘However, your committee advises Synod that thru its president:

“ ‘(1) It seriously admonishes the brethren with a view to their deviations and to ask of them the promise that in the future they will adhere to what Synod expressed in the three points mentioned above.

“ ‘(2) It urges the brethren H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema in all seriousness to refrain from all attempts to propagate their deviating views with regard to the three points in the Church;

“ ‘(3) It points out to the two brethren, that in case, either now or in the near future it should become evident, that they will not adhere to the decisions of Synod, this body will be obliged, though very loath to do so, to make the case pending with their consistories.

“ ‘Should the brethren refuse to live up to these proposed conditions the Synod would then have to appoint a committee.  Your committee would in that case make the suggestion that this committee consist of the officers of the Synod,’ (pp. 12, 13, typewritten report.)

“It must be remembered that this advice of the committee was not adopted by Synod.  It is only quoted in order to show, that the committee was well convinced that synod had before her a question of discipline and that Synod was not only justified but also in duty bound to act in the matter.

“b. Synod also conceived of the case in the same light.  It is not true that Synod merely expressed itself with regard to the doctrinal issues involved in the Common Grace Controversy, as Classis presents the matter.  She also rendered a decision with regard to the view of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, as follows:

“ ‘Synod declares that several expressions in the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema can hardly be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confessions teach us concerning the three points mentioned above.  Besides, Synod judges that said pastors in their writings use a few strong expressions that show that in their presentation of the truth they do not sufficiently reckon with the manner in which our Confessional Standards express themselves and especially not with Point I of the Conclusions of Utrecht.

“ ‘On the other hand, Synod expresses that said pastors in their writings, according to their own repeated declarations do not want and intend anything else than to teach and maintain the Reformed truth, the truth of the Word of God and of our Confessions, while it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in the fundamental truths as formulated in our Confessions, even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness.’ Acts of Synod, p. 147, II.

“In the above paragraph Synod does not express itself merely on doctrinal issues, but renders a concrete decision with regard to the complaints that had been lodged with her against the teachings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

“Synod even exercised a certain form of discipline, though it is admittedly a very peculiar form, and that not only over the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema, but over the entire Church.  She did so in the following declaration:

“ ‘With a view to the deviating views of the pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema in re the three points mentioned above, and with a view to the controversy raging in our churches regarding the doctrine of Common Grace, synod admonishes the two brethren that they keep themselves in preaching and writing to the three points discussed, and at the same time Synod admonishes the brethren and the churches in general that they watch against all one-sidedness in the presentation of the truth and to express themselves carefully, soberly and with modesty.’  Acts of Synod 1924, p. 147.

“From all this it is evident that Synod did not conceive of the case before her as involving merely doctrinal issues, but as a very concrete demand for disciplinary action as expressed in the protests that were brought to Synod’s attention.

“3. That Synod did not sustain the protests against the teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema in re the three points, neither with regard to the material and doctrinal contents of these protests, nor with regard to the demand for disciplinary action contained in these protests.

“Proof:

“a. The first point in all the protests objected against the teaching of Reverend H. Hoeksema is that God is not graciously inclined, gives no grace to the reprobate.

“This is evident from the following quotations:

“ ‘Reverend H. Hoeksema teaches that God never in any way shows favor to the reprobate or is graciously inclined toward them. ... According to our holiest conviction this is in conflict with Scripture and the Confession’ (The printed protest of H. Vander Venne, J. De Hoog, W. Hoeksema).

“ ‘My first and greatest objection concerns the pastor’s wrong conception of God.  According to him God stands over against the world of the non-elect simply and only in an attitude of hatred, wrath and punishment’ (the Protest of the Reverend J. Vander Mey, printed copy, p. 2).

“ ‘Our first grievance concerns the assertion of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema that God is never graciously, favorably or mercifully inclined toward the reprobate’ (Protest of J. K. Van Baalen, p. 2).

“Besides, the Reverend J. Vander Mey expressed in his protest that the truth the pastor denied ‘belongs to the very foundations of Calvinism’, p. 1.

“This point of the protest is admittedly the most important of the three.  Yet, Synod did not dare to sustain it in the three points expressed by it. (*)  Intentionally Synod avoided the declaration that God is graciously inclined toward the reprobate.  The Synodical Committee ad hoc reported on this matter as follows:

“ ‘There are, however, three points concerning which Synod, according to the judgment of the committee, must express itself more particularly, namely: 1. The favorable inclination of God toward all men and not only toward the elect.  The committee deems this point of central importance in the question that causes so much unrest at present in our churches.  The two following points stand in most intimate relation to this first point, are even more or less implied in it’. (Acts of Synod, p. 124).

“Did Synod accept this point and thus sustain the most important objection of the protestants?  It did not.  Instead it accepted a substitute motion in which the words reprobate, all men and humanity were carefully avoided, as follows: ‘Regarding the first point concerning the favorable attitude of God toward humanity in general and not only toward the elect, Synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession it is established, that besides the saving grace shown only to the elect, there is also a certain favor or grace which He shows to His creatures in general,’ Acts of Synod, 1924, pp. 145, 146.

“The Consistory calls attention to the fact, that this first declaration does not sustain the protests, which claimed a grace of God for the reprobate.  On the other hand, in this first point, taking literally what Synod expressed, it sustained the teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, as publicly and openly set forth in his writings.  We refer to his Langs Zuivere Banen, p. 11, where the pastor wrote before Synod convened: ‘First of all one ought to see clearly that it is not the question whether also now God loves all his creatures.  On this we agree. ... The question is simply and purely, whether both elect and reprobate in this life in and with all things these have in common with the elect, receive also grace from God’. ...

“The former proposition, that God also shows grace and love to all His creatures, Synod accepted; the latter, that He shows grace to the reprobate Synod intentionally avoided.  Not the protestants were sustained in their first point, but the pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, was.

“And over against the assertion of the Reverend J. Vander Mey, that the Reverend H. Hoeksema denied a truth which belongs to the very fundamentals of Calvinism, Synod declared: ‘While it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in the fundamental truths as formulated in the Confessions, even though it be with an inclination toward one-sidedness’.  Acts of Synod, 1924, p. 147.

“Neither did Synod sustain the protests in their demand for disciplinary action.  All the protests clamored for action.  They asked that the pastor be made to retract his views, that he be brought back from his erroneous way, that he be treated, if necessary, all the way to suspension from office.

“The committee appointed for this case by Synod suggested and advised that, in part at least, the protestants should be sustained in their demands with regard to disciplinary procedure. It advised as follows:

“ ‘1. Seriously to admonish the brethren with a view to their deviations and to ask of them the promise that in the future they will adhere to what Synod expressed in the three points mentioned above;

“ ‘2. To urge the brethren, H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, in all seriousness to refrain from all attempts to propagate their deviating views regarding the three points in the church;

“ ‘3. To point out to the brethren, that in case either now or in the near future, it should become evident that they will not adhere to the decisions of Synod, this body shall be obliged, though very loath to do so, to make the case pending with their respective consistories/

“ ‘4. Should the brethren refuse to live up to these proposed conditions Synod would then have to appoint a committee.  Your committee would in that case offer the suggestion that this committee consist of the officers of Synod.’ (Typewritten report, p. 12.)

“Did Synod adopt the advice of the committee?  By no means.  It rejected it by adopting a substitute motion in which the entire advice was dropped.  Synod did not ask the brethren to retract anything, to promise anything, to refrain from anything. Synod never asked the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema to promise a single thing.  Instead Synod merely decided to admonish the brethren, together with the entire Church and all other ministers in our churches.

“On the basis of all this the Consistory maintains that Synod did not sustain the protests lodged against the pastor, the Reverend H. Hoeksema, neither with regard to the doctrinal contentions nor with respect to their demand for disciplinary action.

“4. That there is not a single item of proof in the Acts of Synod, 1924, for the contention of Classis that Synod intended to leave the enforcement of disciplinary rules to the minor assemblies.  On the contrary, there is abundance of evidence that Synod did not intend disciplinary procedure whatever.

“Proof:

“The first part of the above contention of the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Church is negative. Classis does not quote any proof that Synod had such intentions.  Consistory can find no proof in the Acts of Synod, 1924.  It is simply a baseless assertion on the part of Classis.

“But the second part of the contention of the Consistory can easily be made evident:

“(1) If Synod had intended disciplinary action it should have been expressed in the Acts of synod.

“(2) Synod acted upon protests that lodged complaints against the teachings of Reverend H. Hoeksema and not merely on an abstract doctrinal proposition.

“(3) Synod acted upon and finished protests that demanded disciplinary action.

“(4) Synod rejected that part of the committee’s report that advised disciplinary procedure.  We are aware that Classis denies that synod rejected this part of the report, but without any ground.  The patent fact is, that this advice of the committee was before the Synod.  When Synod accepts a substitute motion that part of the original motion that does not appear in the substitute motion is certainly rejected.  This is exactly what Synod did.  At any rate, it is indisputable that Synod did not accept this part of the said committee’s report.  And from this it should be apparent, that Synod did not desire discipline.  How different this is from the action taken in the Reverend H. Bultema case in 1918!  Then Synod plainly asked the Reverend H. Bultema to retract his views and appointed a committee to make the case pending with his consistory in case he would not submit.  In still another case, that of the Reverend Q. Breen, the same synod of 1924 advised the consistory of that pastor to take disciplinary action.  Yet, no such action was taken in the case of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

“(5) Synod expressed that Reverend H. Hoeksema is fundamentally in harmony with our Reformed truth as embodied in the standards.  Has our church reached the stage in which it would advise to suspend and remove from office ministers that are fundamentally Reformed?  We the Consistory of Eastern Avenue do not believe it.

“(6) Synod did give an answer to the very question to which Classis now demands an answer from the pastor through the Consistory once more.  For, Classis asks that the Consistory of Eastern Avenue ask their pastor whether or no he is in full agreement with the three points expressed by Synod.  There is a Synodical decision that informs the Classis that several expressions in the writings of our pastor cannot very well be harmonized with the three points, that he has deviating views with respect to these three points, but that in spite of all this the pastor is fundamentally Reformed.  Why should the Consistory violate the decision of Synod by asking a question and investigating a matter which Synod already investigated and settled?  But Synod did not desire disciplinary action in spite of the deviations of the pastor alleged by Synod, and that for the patent reason that one can deviate from the three points expressed by Synod and yet be a fundamentally Reformed man!

“(7) Instead of all the disciplinary action that was suggested by protestants and committee, synod was satisfied with a simple admonition directed not only to our pastor, but also to all the churches.

“In short, it is very evident from the Acts of Synod, 1924, to the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, that Synod supplied the answer to the very question Classis desires to put once more.  This is in contradiction and in conflict with Art. 46 of our Church Order, enjoining that the same matters shall not repeatedly be brought forward when they are once decided by the largest assembly of our churches.

“And at the same time the Consistory of Eastern Avenue is satisfied that Synod did not advise or intend any disciplinary action of any kind.

“And, therefore, the Consistory finally maintains that, since the case against the pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, has been appealed to Synod, and since Synod has ruled and acted upon the matter, the case is a closed one. The Consistory of Eastern Avenue has no complaints against the decisions of the Synod of 1924.  It is well satisfied with the action taken.  But it holds that Classis can never demand of said Consistory, on the basis of said decisions of Synod 1924, that it places the pastor before the questions expressed in the communication from Classis dated Nov. 24, 1924.

“In answer to some minor points in the communication of Classis Grand Rapids East to the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, said Consistory would like to remark the following:

“1. That it is a curious fact that in said communication Art. 30 of the Church Order: ‘In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies,’ is now interpreted to mean: ‘In minor assemblies such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in major assemblies!’

“2. That the Consistory fully agrees with Art. 31 of Our Church Order: ‘Whatever shall be agreed upon by majority vote shall be considered settled and binding.’  If only our Churches, and especially our Classis and the Synod of 1924 had adhered to what is thus considered settled and binding, also in matters concerning procedure and rules of order.  Consistory reminds the Classis that there is a Synodical decision stating that all matters for Synod must be with the Synodical Stated Clerk before May 1st of the Synodical year. (Cf. Kerkelijk Handkboek, p. 151)  But the glaring titles on the Printed protests that were sent to Synod and declared acceptable by Synod, the overture of Classis Grand Rapids West included, testify against Classis and against Synod.  For they all testify that Classis Grand Rapids East assembled on the twenty-first day of May, and therefore, could not, by Synodical decision that is settled and binding, bring matters to the attention of Synod anymore.  Yet, things were rushed to Synod even after this date.  How could any good be expected from such an unwise rush? But with regard to the point in question, Consistory maintains, that Synod had the entire case before it, finished it, gave an answer to all protests and questions, the question now put by Classis included, and that this must be considered settled and binding according to Art. 31 of the Church Order.

“3. That there is nothing new in the statements made in The Standard Bearer.  These same statements were made before Synod.  Besides, they contain no points of doctrine to be in conflict with the three points expressed by Synod, but merely an announcement as to what will be taught in the future.  If Classis wants to reopen the case against the pastor of Eastern Avenue on the basis of doctrinal conflict with the three points expressed by Synod, Classis will surely have to wait till the pastor actually teaches something against the three points.  A mere announcement is not sufficient.

“4. With regard to the assertion of Classis that Synod did not treat the protest of Reverend H. Danhof submitted to Synod, Consistory maintains that the protest was submitted in the proper way, that it was read before Synod and that Synod received it.  The point is that even after this protest was submitted to the attention of Synod, this body did not take disciplinary measure neither advised to such measures on the part of the minor assemblies.

“5. The Formula of Subscription speaks only of our Confessional Standards.  It never was a rule in our Church that all Synodical decisions must be subscribed to by the pastors.  The pastor will gladly act accordingly.  But Synod expressed that our pastor is fundamentally Reformed.  There seems no cause for action in this direction.

“6. Consistory does not question that Synod possesses the ultimate authority to interpret our Confessional Standards.  But neither does the Consistory want Classis to assume a position which would indicate a denial of the fact, that Synod also possesses ultimate authority in matters pertaining to cases of discipline.  And Consistory maintains that classis has no authority to reopen a case against the pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, against whom so many attacks were launched and so many complaints lodged and protest written, and who left Synod with the testimony of that largest assembly of our churches that he is fundamentally Reformed.

“Final resolution:

“1. Whereas Classis requires of the Consistory of Eastern Avenue to ask of its pastor a question that was plainly investigated and answered by Synod of 1924,

“2. Whereas Consistory is convinced that the entire case against the pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, was before Synod of 1924 and is, therefore, a closed case,

“3. Whereas the Consistory of Eastern Avenue is satisfied to abide by the decisions of Synod 1924, and is convinced that said question proposed by Classis Grand Rapids East to be put before the pastor, is not in harmony with the plain declarations and intent of said decisions of Synod 1924,

“4. Whereas Classis Grand Rapids East proposes an interpretation of said decision of said Synod of 1924 different from the interpretation of the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, and different, too, from the plain declarations of said decisions of Synod 1924,

“5. Therefore, be it resolved by the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church:

“a. To appeal for the interpretation of said decisions of Synod 1924 in re protests against our pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, as set forth by said Consistory in the above communication to Classis Grand Rapids East, and against the interpretation of these same decisions of said Synod 1924 as set forth by Classis Grand Rapids East in the communication of said Classis to said Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, dated Nov. 24, 1924.

“b. To request Classis Grand Rapids East to defer any and all action said Classis might contemplate against the Consistory of said Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church until such time as Synod shall have acted upon the appeal of said Consistory and rendered final decisions in the matter.

“Respectfully submitted, by order of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, this eight day of December, 1924.

“H. Hoeksema , Pres.

“S.G. Schaafsma, Clerk.”

 This rather lengthy and detailed reply to the Classis speaks for itself.

It shows that, while the consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was firm in its refusal to start disciplinary action of any kind against the pastor, it left no stone unturned to convince the classis of its error and thus to prevent the threatening breach.

And why should not the classis have acknowledged the fact that the decisions of the Synod of 1924 had utterly failed to point to discipline of the two accused pastors?

There was no apparent reason why on its part it should not admit that the decisions of the synod were incomplete and ambiguous, and, therefore, certainly were liable to more than one interpretation.

And admitting this point of the consistory’s argument, the classis could only follow the way pointed out by the consistory: wait until 1926 and let the synod interpret its own decisions.

In concluding this chapter the remark is probably not superfluous, that if the reader should receive the impression from the form of the consistory’s answer to the classis, that it was composed by an attorney, he is mistaken.

Both as to form and content the reply is of the consistory.

Chapter 9 - The special classis convenes and proceeds.

The special meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East, began in the auditorium of Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, November 19, 1924, and closed its final session in Oakdale Christian Reformed Church, December 12, of the same year.

Its sessions were open to the public.

And a large number of church members revealed their keen interest in the proceedings by attending the classical gatherings daily.

For this we may be thankful.

There is no doubt that the attendance of the classical meetings had a salutary influence on many that were still more or less in doubt as to the stand they must take in the common-grace controversy. Many that were still wavering before this meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East had their eyes opened by the Classical proceedings and became convinced that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was defending the cause of truth and righteousness over against the protestants and the classis.

Besides, many of them that attended the classical meetings are, at the time of the publication of this book, still living and are in a position to witness to the truth of what might otherwise appear to be a practically unbelievable report of what actually happened at this special classis and of the proceedings that culminated in the deposition of the pastor and consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

Immediately after the opening of the first session a mysterious incident occurred that is worthy of being saved from oblivion.

The consistory of Eastern Avenue had prepared and delivered a protest to the stated clerk of classis, Mr. B. Sevensma, who was an intimate friend of the protestants, directed against the calling of the special meeting of Classis Grand Rapids East by the Classical Committee. The clerk of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had delivered this protest in person to the stated clerk of the classis. Naturally, a protest of this kind would have to be treated first, before the classis proceeded. When, therefore, the stated clerk failed to present this protest the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church called attention to it and requested that it be read and acted upon before the classis would proceed.

The protest, however, could nowhere be found. All the documents that were on the classical table were carefully searched, but the protest by the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was not among them.

Mysteriously it had disappeared.

And just as mysteriously it reappeared. For, when the classis reconvened after a recess it was picked up without difficulty from the same table that had been so carefully searched before recess. Classis appointed a committee to investigate this mystery, but without avail. To this day no one knows how the protest happened to be on the table after recess, where it certainly was not before.

But let this merely be regarded as a curious anecdote. It mattered little whether the protest was found or not, for the classis simply overruled it and declared the meeting of this special classis and its convocation by the Classical Committee to be perfectly in order and legal.

There appeared on the classical agendum, first of all, a document by the "ninety-two", partaking of the double nature of a protest against the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church and of a request to classis.

In this protest the "Ninety-two" declared that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church had severed the tie of affiliation with the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches, because they refused to submit to the demands of the classis and to abide by the decisions of synod. They, therefore, concluded that they were no longer obliged to acknowledge the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church as the legal consistory and informed the classis that they considered themselves the true and faithful congregation.

The document presented several requests to classis.

Heading the list was the petition that classis should support and join them in their declaration that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, had, by virtue of their own actions, severed themselves from the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches. The reader will notice that not only extremes but also contradictions meet sometimes. These same protestants, who complained that their consistory would not submit to "law and order", here virtually declared that, although they did not and could not constitute a legal body, they had deposed their consistory and requested the classis to acknowledge them as the real and faithful congregation of Eastern Avenue.

But the mind of whomever may have conceived and produced this document did not appear to be easily disturbed by contradictions. For, the request to support the protestants in their claim that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had severed its connections with the Christian Reformed denomination and, therefore, could be acknowledged as a legal consistory no longer, was followed by the petition that the classis demand of the consistory and pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church an unconditional promise to abide by the decisions and declarations of the classis and the synod. This request had reference especially to the three doctrinal declarations adopted by synod and to the decision of classis that the censure imposed on the three first protestants should be lifted. But how could classis first join the protestants in their declaration that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had broken all ties of affiliation with the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches, in order then to demand of that same consistory a promise that they would abide by the decisions of the larger gatherings in that denomination? It must be quite evident that no classis can make demands upon a consistory that is outside of its jurisdiction, granting for the moment that it has jurisdiction and that it has authority to make demands upon a consistory at all.

The protestants, moreover, requested that the classis would assist them, the faithful congregation, to become properly instituted and organized as the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church!

They further petitioned the classis that the faculty of the Theological School (especially Professors L. Berkhof and C. Bouma were mentioned) be asked to serve the classis in an advisory capacity.

Moreover, the protestants appeared so convinced of their being the real and faithful congregation, that they requested classis to give the privilege of advisory vote to two of their own number.

And, in conclusion, they urged the classis to hesitate no longer but to take a firm hold of the matter.

The classis decided to grant the request of the protestants respecting the invitation to the Theological Faculty and to ask that body to be present at the classical meetings and to serve in an advisory capacity.

This certainly was an unprecedented mode of procedure. The Theological Faculty usually serves as advisory body on the floor of the synod, where matters are decided that pertain to the churches in general. But here the matter was one of local concern. The theological professors were asked to reinforce the classis in its battle against a single consistory! This would not have been so strange, if in the course of their deliberations the delegates had met with a problem of a doctrinal or church-political nature which they could not solve, and if, then, they had asked the advice of the professor of that particular department of theology to which the question belonged. But here an entire faculty was invited to serve in advisory capacity in the entire procedure against the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, before the classis had even made an attempt to solve its own problems! Surely, the classis must have been deeply conscious of its own incompetency when they granted this request of the protestants! Besides, this decision was certainly unfair toward the pastor and consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, because of the fact that the theological professors were known to be prejudiced in the case that was to be submitted to their consideration. L. Berkhof and C. Bouma had served in the synodical committee that formulated the "Three Points" and were even considered their main authors. And it was especially the attitude of the pastor and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church over against these "Three Points" that was to be discussed by the classis.

Do we exaggerate, then, when we draw the conclusion that the classis in granting the request of the protestants regarding this matter deliberately sought prejudiced advice, and that the whole case against the consistory and pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church was virtually decided before the classis had at all deliberated on the case or even before the classis ever met?

I am aware of the fact that suspicions do not belong to the realm of history as human being can trace its course; but the facts in the case do, at least, warrant the statement, that the suspicion is not wholly unfounded, that the Classical Committee had served the protestants with advice against the consistory before the classis convened.

What made matters worse was the condition upon which the theological professors were allowed to accept the invitation.

They refused to attend the meetings of classis as individuals. They expressed, however, their willingness to accede to the request of the classis, provided they would be permitted to meet separately, without appearing before the classis, and to offer their advice as a separate body!

How was it possible for them to give advice in a case if they did not hear both sides of it? Yet, they only heard of the classical proceedings as the Classical Committee, appointed in this case, reported to them.

Besides, it was certainly unfair to the pastor and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, that the theological professors were allowed to speak in the case without having to appear before the classis. According to this way of procedure they did not even have to face the delegates of the consistory of Eastern Avenue in open discussion. They were allowed to work in the dark. their advice did not even have to be published. To this day no one, except themselves and the pre-advisory committee of classis, knows what the faculty advised in the matter.

Yet, the classis decided to accept this offer of the faculty.

From that moment the classis followed a very strange and unprecedented mode of procedure. A committee of pre-advice was appointed in the case; and in this there was nothing extraordinary. The committee assembled in the Theological School, and this was extraordinary, but occasioned by the desire to have contact with the faculty. What was worse, however, is that they prepared no complete report on the matter delivered to them for consideration. They prepared and delivered their report piecemeal. Whenever they were ready with a part of their report, they delivered it to the classis. This body would then adopt it and demand an answer from the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church at a certain fixed time; classis would adjourn until the consistory would have prepared its reply; would convene again merely to place the consistory’s answer in the hands of its committee; and then adjourn again till the committee was ready with another part of its report. This was repeated several times; indeed, this method was followed till the case was finished. There was, therefore, no or little discussion on the floor of the classis. The procedure assumed the form of a correspondence debate between the Classical Committee and the faculty on the one hand and the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church on the other. The classis merely voted and always adopted the advice of its committee. The whole procedure, therefore, was very extraordinary and improper. It was adapted to exclude public discussion as much as possible.

The first part of the report which it pleased the committee to offer classis consisted of two parts.

The first part enumerated the different protests and overtures that were brought to the attention of the classis in the case. Many protests had been received from members of other congregations against the decisions of the August classis in respect to the same case. There was a protest by more than eight hundred members of the Eastern Avenue Church against the same decisions. There was a request by ninety-two members of the same church. And, finally, there were two overtures, one from the consistory of the Dennis Avenue Christian Reformed Church and one from the Creston Christian Reformed Church, both of Grand Rapids, demanding that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church be requested to promise that he would abide by the "Three Points." These overtures had never been brought to the attention of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church. The committee advised classis to accept all these documents as legally before the meeting.

The second part of the report contained the committee’s advice in regard to the matter proper. They advised classis: (1) to demand of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, that they ask their pastor whether or no he would abide by the three points of doctrine as adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924; (2) to ask of the consistory to have their answer ready by the following morning at nine o’clock; (3) in case the answer of the consistory would prove satisfactory to classis, to appoint a committee to treat the entire case in conjunction with the consistory.

From which report it may appear how conscious classis was of its hierarchical powers!

The report was adopted, in spite of the fact that the pastor openly declared that he would not abide by the three points adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo, and that, therefore, it was quite superfluous for the classis to inquire about this matter through the consistory. Classis adjourned till the following morning.

At the appointed hour the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church was ready with its full answer.

The reply here follows in full:

Grand Rapids, Nov. 20, 1924.
Classis Grand Rapids East,
convened in the Neland Avenue Church,
Grand Rapids, Nov. 19-21, 1924.

Honorable and Worthy Brethren:

The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, Grand Rapids, Mich., in their session of Nov. 20, 1924, considered your decision to demand of them that they place their pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, before the question whether he fully agrees with the three points adopted by the Synod of 1924 and published in the Acta Synodi 1924, pp. 145-147.

They politely beg to reply as follows:

The Consistory is of the opinion that they do not have the right to place their pastor before said question in regard to the three points; and also that the Classis does not have the right to demand this of the consistory. For this opinion the Consistory has the following grounds:

1. The Synod of 1924 treated the protests that were brought against the pastor and finished the matters contained therein. The Consistory received no official notification of the Synod that they, the Consistory, are called in any way to treat their pastor, neither can anything of the kind be found in the Acta.

2. The Synod, through its committee of pre-advice, had before it the proposition to treat the pastor, but rejected this part of the report. The point of advice referred to reads as follows:

"If Synod adopts the above mentioned points, the question arises, whether Synod ought to make it a case of discipline immediately and bring the objections against the pastors Danhof and Hoeksema to the attention of the consistories involved. Your committee is of the opinion that this would not be the more desirable mode of procedure. First, because the brethren, according to their own repeated declarations do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach the Reformed doctrine as contained in Holy Scripture and the Confessions, and we will gladly assume that they erred in good faith. Secondly, because it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths, even though it is with an inclination to one-sidedness.

"However, your committee advises that Synod through its president:

(1) Seriously admonish the brethren with respect to their departures and demand of them the promise that in the future they will abide by the three points declared by Synod.

(2) Urge the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema that they refrain from making propaganda for their dissenting views, regarding the three points in the churches.

(3) Point out to the brethren, that if it should appear either now or in the future that they will not abide by the decision of Synod, the latter to its profound regret will have to make the case pending with the consistories.

"In case of a refusal by the brethren to comply with these conditions Synod would have to appoint a committee. Your Committee would suggest in that case that the officers of Synod be appointed as members of that committee."

All this was rejected by Synod. It is evident that Synod wanted no action of any kind. The pastor, accordingly, was never asked a single question by Synod, neither was he compelled to subscribe to anything. And since the Consistory is of the opinion that we must abide by these decisions of Synod in this case, they are convinced that Classis has no right to ask more than Synod did, and that the Consistory may not comply with the request of Classis.

3. The Reverend H. Danhof immediately delivered a protest against the three points to Synod, and he notified Synod that he would oppose them. (See Acts of Synod, 1924, pp. 194-199). This protest was received and treated by Synod. In spite of this Synod did not ask of the brethren agreement with the three points, neither did it advise to discipline them. The Consistory is of the opinion that the Classis in its last decisions proceeds far beyond the Synod and they, the Consistory, choose to abide by the decisions of Synod.

4. Protests were lodged with Synod against its decisions by various delegates of Synod, and in these also the matter of the three points was partly condemned. Also these protestants notified the Synod that they did not fully agree with the three points adopted by Synod. They were never troubled on account of this disagreement by Synod. The Consistory is firmly convinced that Synod never intended that any action should be taken.

5. Our ministers sign the Formula of Subscription and by doing so the Three Formulas of Unity. No minister is ever asked to sign the three points and the consistory is convinced that this was never intended by Synod.

6. Our pastor will gladly declare that he fully agrees with the confessions of the Reformed Churches, and the Consistory is of the opinion that this is the only demand that can be made upon our ministers till this very day.

For all these reasons the Consistory is convinced that the Classis, in its decision to demand of the Consistory that they place their pastor before the question whether he fully agrees with the three points, goes beyond the decisions of Synod. The Classis has no right to do this. The Consistory appeals for this opinion to the decisions of Synod of 1924. The Consistory, therefore, kindly and urgently requests Classis not to abide by its decisions. If Classis should nevertheless maintain its decision the Consistory must protest and appeals against the decisions of Classis to the next Synod.

Respectfully submitted

The Consistory of Eastern Avenue,

Grand Rapids, Mich.

The reader will notice that the consistory firmly refused to accede to the request of the classis; and at the same time that its reply was well motivated and grounded. The main argument of this reply is that a minor assembly, like a classis, cannot violate the decisions of a major assembly, like the synod. It makes it plain that the classis attempted to do this very thing. The synod had refused to make the three points binding upon the two accused brethren; now the classis proceeded to enforce what the synod had rejected.

This reply of the consistory was read to classis and accepted.

But it was never discussed on the floor of the classis. Instead, it was moved and adopted to place the answer of the consistory in the hands of the committee of pre-advice in the case. Then the classis adjourned once more until the committee should be ready to report and serve the classis with further advice in the matter.

The next session of classis was held on Monday, November 24. The committee had prepared another part of their report, which here follows in full.

"Your committee advises the Classis, Grand Rapids East, to answer the communication received from the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, relative to the requirements placed before it on the 20thof November, 1924, as follows.

"The Classis maintains that it did not go beyond its jurisdiction in requiring the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church to require of Reverend H. Hoeksema an answer to the question as to whether he is in full agreement with the three points established by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, 1924 (cf. Acts, Art. 132, pp. 145 ff.). The Classis calls the Consistory’s attention to the fact that the actions taken both by the Synod and by the Classis are in full accord with Art. 30, D.K.O., ‘In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies, or such as pertain to the Churches of the major assemblies in common.’ The Synod had acted in accord with this article when it in respect to this matter went no further than to make a declaration with regard to the Doctrinal Issues involved in the Common Grace controversy. This is, of course, a matter that pertains to the Churches of the major assembly in common and could not be finished in the minor assemblies, such as consistory and classis. But the Synod did not require of Reverend H. Hoeksema to subscribe to these doctrinal declarations, since this is a matter than can very well be taken care of by the minor assemblies. According to our Reformed conception of church government, the rule is that disciplinary procedure must be exercised by the church judicatories in order of consistory, classis and synod, not vice versa.

"With regard to the various grounds upon which the consistory bases its refusal to concede to the requirements of the Classis, that classis submits the following:

"Ad-1. In answer to the objection that the consistory did not receive any official notice advising that the pastor had to be treated because of his teachings, the Classis calls attention to the fact that the consistory did receive the Acts of Synod of 1924. (This is the usual method by which our Synods convey their official notices to the various consistories.) Now these Acts clearly informed the consistory of Reverend H. Hoeksema in re the three points. (cf. Acts of 1924, Art. 132, pp. 145 ff.) In full accordance with Art. 30, .D. K. O. … ‘In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be dealt with (should be "finished," H.H.) in minor assemblies …,’ it was left to the consistory to enforce the doctrinal decrees of Synod. Obviously it was the duty of the consistory to interpellate the pastor as soon as he publicly opposed the doctrinal declarations of the Synod in The Standard Bearer, Vol. I, No. 1, p. 3, Col. 2: Naar den inhoud zal dit tijdschrift zich geheel aansluiten bij hetgeen gedurende de laatste jaren is geleerd en gepubliceerd geworden door de predikanten Hoeksema en Danhof; en: ‘De redactie van did blad oordeelt, dat geen Gereformeerde deze uitspraken der Synode, ongewijzigd en naar hunne (moet zijn: hare, H.H.) eigenlijke strekking, vermag te onderteekenen, statements for which Reverend H. Hoeksema also holds himself responsible, since: De schrijvers nemen niet slechts hunne respectieve bijdragen maar den geheelen zakelijken inhoud, naar beginsel en strekking, voor hunne gemeenschappelijke rekening, p. 4, Col. 2.

"Art. 31, ‘….Whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote in the major ecclesiastical assembly shall be considered settled and binding. . . .’ places the consistory under the obligation required of it by Classis. And the formula of subscription, ‘… And further if at any time the consistory, classis or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, or the explanation of the National Synod, do we hereby promise always to be willing and ready to comply with such requisition …’ also gives the Consistory the full right to interpellate the pastor in regard to the Confession as interpreted by the three points established by the Synod of 1924.

"Ad-2. In answer to the objection that the Synod rejected the advice of the advisory committee relative to disciplinary action, it must be said that as a matter of fact, the Synod did not reject this proposal, since it was not put to a vote. The Synod evidently preferred the inauguration of a disciplinary procedure (if necessary) to begin with the consistory in full harmony with the Reformed conception of church government, in which the rule is that disciplinary procedure must be exercised by the church judicatories in the order of consistory, classis and synod and not vice versa. Furthermore, the Synod did publicly admonish the brethren, Reverend H. Hoeksema and Reverend H. Danhof to abide by its decision (cf. Acts 1924, p. 147).

"Ad-3. The classis calls attention to the fact that Synod did not treat the protest of Reverend H. Danhof. Of course, the fact that Synod did not sustain nor reject the protest of Reverend Danhof cannot be construed to mean that synod tolerates public opposition to the doctrinal decrees which it has established, for ‘whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote (of the major assembly) shall be considered settled and binding’ (Art. 31, D.K.O.).

"Ad-4. In answer to the fourth ground presented by the consistory, the classis informs the Consistory that these brethren had the right to protest, but to protest does not include nor involve the right to propagate views opposed to the doctrinal decrees of Synod 1924. In case their opposition should be or should become of such a character as to call for disciplinary action, Reformed Church polity requires their respective consistories to initiate such action.

"Ad-5. In answer to the fifth objection, the Classis maintains that according to Reformed Church polity the decisions of our major ecclesiastical assemblies are binding for all the officers and consistories within its jurisdiction and, therefore, also for Reverend H. Hoeksema and his consistory. Accordingly all officers and consistories of the Christian Reformed Church are required to adhere to our Synodical decisions. In case an officer or consistory gives reason to doubt his or its adherence to these decisions, such officer or consistory may be called upon to explain their position. (Cf. the Formula of Subscription) ‘… and further, if at any time consistory, classis, or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, or the explanation of the National Synod (the Canons of Dordt, H.H.), we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisitions …’

"Ad-6. In answer to objection six, the Classis calls attention to the fact that agreement with such confessions on the part of ministers of the Christian Reformed Church signifies agreement with such confessions as interpreted and explained by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. In the special case now under consideration, it means agreement with the confessions as teaching (according to the decrees of our Synod of 1924) the truths expressed by the three points. If one declares that he is in agreement with these Confessions contrary to Synod’s interpretation, he does not measure up to the requirements of subscription as demanded by Reformed Church polity.

"The committee is of the opinion that Classis: 1. Should require again of Eastern Avenue’s consistory that it require of its pastor to express himself whether or no he is in full agreement with the three points as expressed by Synod, Acts 1924. Should require of Eastern Avenue’s consistory to require of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, that he state whether in the matter of the three points he will submit (with the right of appeal) to the confessional standards of the Church as interpreted by the Synod of 1924 and, in case of an appeal, whether he in the interim will acquiesce in the judgment already passed by the Synod of 1924.

"Classis send a written communication together with all the classical decisions pertaining to the Eastern Avenue case to the consistory of Eastern Avenue, requiring of said consistory:

"1. That it require of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, to express himself whether or no he is in full agreement with the three points as expressed by the Synod, cf. Acts 1924, art. 132, pp. 145ff.

"2. That it require of Eastern Avenue’s consistory to require of its pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, that he state whether in the matter of the three points (cf. Acts, 1924, art. 132, pp. 145ff.) he will submit with the right of appeal to the Confessional Standards of the Church as interpreted by the Synod of 1924, i.e., neither publicly nor privately propose, teach or defend, either by preaching or by writing, any sentiments contrary to the Confessional Standards of the church as interpreted by the Synod of 1924, and in case of an appeal, whether in the interim he will acquiesce in the judgment already passed by the Synod of 1924.

"3. That it furnish the Classis with the definite, written answers of its pastor by December 9, 1924, 9 A.M.

"The committee proposes that the president and secretary of Classis be instructed to send the above mentioned communication to the consistory of Eastern Avenue.

"The committee informs the Classis that it is not ready to report on the other matters before Classis and therefore advises that those matters be held over till Dec. 9, 1924.

"The committee proposes that Classis adjourn till Dec. 9, 1924, 9 A.M.

This report may be considered a concoction of truth and sophistry.

It is sophistry pure and simple when the committee attempts to explain the failure of synod to advise the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church to discipline its pastor as being motivated by the desire to maintain the principle that discipline must be initiated in the minor assembly, i.e., the consistory. For, first of all, we may remark that all who attended the sessions of the Synod of Kalamazoo were well aware of the fact that no such desire motivated the synod whatever. Article 30 of the Church Order was never thought of, much less mentioned by the synod. Neither is there an item of proof in the report of the committee for this interpretation of the synod’s motives. Nor can such proof be found in the Acts of Synod, 1924. Secondly, notice that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church in its answer to Classis never contended that disciplinary action must or may begin with synod, as the report of the Classical committee alleges. Its contention was that if synod had contemplated discipline in the common grace case and against the pastor of Eastern Avenue, it would have been necessary for that body to make the case pending with the consistory. Then, too, it is evident that Classis Grand Rapids East was, indeed, attempting to do the very thing which, according to its own interpretation of Art. 30, D.K.O., it was not allowed to do. Classis is a major assembly as well as synod. Yet, it attempted to start a case of discipline against the pastor of Eastern Avenue!

It is sophistry pure and simple when the report of the Classical Committee states that the consistory of Eastern Avenue received official notice of the decision of synod to the effect that the pastor would have to be disciplined. For, first of all, let it be noted that it is not true that, in cases in which synod deems discipline by the consistory necessary, the Acts of Synod are considered sufficient notification. For a precedent to the contrary we may point to the case of the Reverend H. Bultema, in which the synod of 1918 appointed a committee to make the case pending with the consistory of Muskegon I. And, secondly, it is not true that there is any official notice in the Acts of Synod 1924 to the effect that the synod expected of the consistory to start disciplinary action against the pastor. In fact, the Acts of Synod 1924 do contain the synodical declaration that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church is in fundamental agreement with the Reformed Confessions. And it certainly had never been the custom in Reformed Churches to discipline fundamentally Reformed ministers! It must be very evident that the statement in the report of the Classical Committee, that the consistory of Eastern Avenue received notification to interpellate or discipline its pastor, is quite contrary to the truth.

Once more, it is sophistry when the committee in its report denies that the synod rejected the proposal of its committee of pre-advice regarding discipline. Certainly, the proposal to discipline the two accused pastors was properly before the synod through the report of its committee of pre-advice in this case, that had been read and accepted. It is also undeniable that the synod received, voted on and adopted a substitute motion from which the advice concerning discipline had been completely dropped. Now, when a substitute motion is adopted the original motion is certainly rejected.

Nor is it true that the synod admonished the two accused pastors to abide by its decisions. What is true is that the synod decided to admonish the brethren. But it is also true, that it never carried out this decision. And the reason for this failure is easily conjectured. All the synod was well aware of the fact that the two pastors would most positively refuse to receive any form of admonitions that body might decide to administer. Synod, therefore, took the cowardly course of deciding to admonish the brethren without ever intending to carry out that decision.

In its report the committee, evidently, takes the stand that agreement with the Confessions on the part of any office-bearer in the Christian Reformed Churches implies agreement with all the doctrinal interpretations by any synod. In this case synod had composed and adopted three points of doctrine, which it chose to call interpretations of the Reformed Confessions but which are in a very real sense additions to and corruptions of those Confessions. Synod had adopted these three doctrinal declarations without first consulting the churches in general. And now, according to the report of the committee of Classis Grand Rapids East, all must accept the faith of synod as their own profess it and teach it, until another synod may be willing to listen to their grievances! All this is supposed to be sustained by Article 31 of the Church Order: "whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote in the major assemblies shall be considered settled and binding." But the committee forgot to quote the rest of this article: "Unless it be proved to conflict with the Word of God or other articles of the Church Order, as long as they are not changed by a General Synod." This addition means that ecclesiastical decisions shall not be considered settled and binding, not even till the next general synod, if they can be proven to conflict with the Word of God.

According to the stand assumed by the report of the Classical Committee, however, an office-bearer in the Christian Reformed Churches is bound unconditionally to submit to all the decrees of any synod.

And this is popery.

We may suppose that the report presented to the classis was composed with the advice of the theological professors.

If this supposition is correct, one can only be amazed that four of these professors could so soon forget their own action against the decrees of the Synod of 1920. Did the "four professors" submit after the synod had spoken in the Janssen-case? On the contrary, they appealed to the public and raised an uproar about those decisions in the churches.

Did the churches submit when in 1928 the synod had decided to introduce the "absolution" in the Form of Worship? On the contrary, they simply refused to introduce the new element.

When decisions of the major assemblies are plainly contrary to the Word of God one may not and cannot submit to them even for two years.

With respect to the advice the committee offered to classis, one cannot help noting, especially, three striking features.

The first is, that materially the advice is the same as that offered in the previous report and adopted by the classis. The consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church virtually was placed before the same question as before. There was no progress.

The second remarkable feature of this last part of the report is the language. As the ponderous phraseology and laboriously accurate terminology clearly suggest, the language is that of the worldly lawyer. We may safely conclude that by this time the Classical Committee, without the consent of the classis but most likely upon the request of the protestants, had sought the legal advice of an attorney.

Already the eyes of the opponents were anxiously directed toward the "brick"!

Was the third striking element of this part of the report perhaps, related to the second? I refer now to the unexpected and unmotivated advice that the classis should take a recess of almost three weeks. For what reason the committee found it impossible to be ready with the rest of their report is a mystery until this day, except to the initiated in the secrets of the classical politics of those days.

We may surmise that this advice was motivated by the desire to safeguard the "brick".

However, this belongs to the realm of "hidden things’; not to that of history proper.

The classis asked no questions.

The report and advice of the committee was adopted.

Classis, therefore, adjourned until December 9, 1924.

Chapter 8 - The calling of a special meeting of classis.

Anyone can readily understand that it is difficult to treat a protest that is signed by fifty members of a congregation, without recognizing them as an organized body. Perhaps, in view of this almost insurmountable difficulty, the consistory of Eastern Avenue Church would have been perfectly justifiable if it had refused to receive the protest mentioned in the preceding chapter.

The fact is, however, that it did receive the protest and proceeded to treat it.

The consistory decided, first of all, to express its disapproval of the action of the fifty protestants with regard to the manner in which the fifty signatures had been secured. As stated before, the protest had been circulated through the congregation and members had been urged to sign it. And such action the consistory could not tolerate. It cannot be denied, that a group of members have the right unitedly to sign a certain protest, provided it be clearly understood that in such a case the individual signers of the protest remain personally responsible for their protest, so that they cannot be received as a body by the consistory. But in this particular case the matter stood out quite differently. Here it was not a case of fifty members all agreeing on the same matter and voluntarily, without persuasion and coercion, signing a certain protest. On the contrary, the protest had been composed by a few of the signers and had been circulated in the congregation without the consent of the consistory. And the latter was informed of the fact, that certain members, though ignorant of the matter of the protest, had been urged to sign. This was, indeed, an act of schism and mutiny. The consistory could not possibly approve of or tolerate such action.

And it adduced sufficient grounds for its decision to disapprove of the way in which the signatures of the fifty had been obtained. From the minutes of the consistory it was shown that in the past similar action by a certain party had been condemned, the guilty party had been censured, and the censure had been sustained by the classis. Again, the same minutes revealed that a certain member had been refused his request to circulate a petition in the congregation. And, finally, the consistory produced evidence from the Acts of Synod, 1924, p. 91, showing that this stand was also supported by the broadest gathering of the churches.

The expression of disapproval by the consistory in regard to the action of the fifty protestants was, therefore, by no means unprecedented.

In spite of this disapproval, however, the consistory did not refuse to receive the protest, but decided to treat its contents and to serve the protestants with an answer.

To the first part of the protest, requesting that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church openly declare, or be demanded to declare, his agreement with the "Three Points" and to promise that in preaching and teaching he would abide by them, the consistory replied:

1. That the consistory was convinced that the pastor in his preaching and instruction abode by the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions; and that this conviction was supported by the very declaration of the synod, that the pastor was fundamentally Reformed.

2. That they positively refused to demand of the pastor that he sign or express submission to the "Three Point." And they pointed out that also this refusal was sustained by the decisions of synod, which clearly showed that this body had not contemplated any such demand upon the pastor.

3. That they were convinced, that if there were, indeed, strife and unrest in the congregation, the protestants must not look for the cause of such disturbance in the stand taken by the consistory, but rather in their own action.

With reference to the demand of the protestants that the consistory should follow the advice of the classis and lift the censure of the three original protestants, the consistory decided to answer:

1. That they must needs refuse this request, seeing they could not permit the Lord’s Supper to be profaned by allowing members to partake that had their hearts filled with hostility against their pastor.

2. That it was their perfect right to differ with the classis on this point. The classis is only an advisory body, and not a ruling body in the local congregation at all. The act of the consistory with respect to this matter, therefore, could not properly be styled an act of rebellion.

3. That, moreover, at the meeting of classis on Aug. 20, the consistory had appealed the matter to synod, so that, at all events, the case would have to rest till synod had expressed itself in the matter.

As to the part of the protest that was directed against the congregational meeting of Sept. 2, the consistory decided to reply:

1. That the purpose of this meeting had been clearly announced from the pulpit, so that the entirely erroneous conception the protestants appeared to have formed of this meeting could hardly be attributed to misunderstanding on their part.

2. That the meeting as it had been announced and was conducted was perfectly justifiable in the light of sound Reformed Church Polity. The protestants certainly had not adduced any proof to the contrary.

3. That the protestants presented the matter in a wrong light, when they stated that even women and girls were invited to vote at that meeting, seeing that no vote was taken at all.

But how was the consistory to inform the protestants of these decisions? To follow the suggestion of the protestants and deliver a copy of these decisions to one of the two addresses mentioned was to recognize them as an organized body, which the consistory had refused to do. This difficulty the consistory met as follows. They decided to express that they could not recognize the existence of the separate body of protestants in the congregation; and that the protestants, no matter how their names had been secured, would be held individually responsible for the protest. It was decided, therefore, to ask the protestants to appear individually before the consistory. Further, it was decided that the consistory would demand of each of the protestants to confess that it was wrong to circulate a protest through the congregation, for the purpose of obtaining signatures, without the consent of the consistory. If they would confess this sin, the consistory would read to them their decisions in the matter of the protest. And, lastly, it was decided to demand of the protestants a retraction of their baseless accusation that the consistory lived in rebellion, as they had asserted in their protest.

It is evident that it was quite impossible to receive all the fifty protestants at one meeting of the consistory. To expedite matters, however, the consistory notified fifteen members at a time that they were expected to appear before the meeting. Of the first group of fifteen that had been invited to appear before the consistory meeting of Oct. 9, 1924, only three appeared. At the next regular meeting of the consistory, that of Oct. 24, only four appeared of the fifteen that had been notified. After this no one responded. Those that did appear revealed plainly, as might be expected, that they were not very well acquainted with the contents of their own protest. Separated from their fellow-protestants and instigators of the matter, they appeared rather helpless. They sought refuge in a stubborn silence, and all refused to answer any questions relative to the contents of their protest. All refused, besides, to confess their wrong or to promise to refrain from similar actions in the future. They left the impression upon the consistory, that they were instructed to act as they did.

More and more it became evident that the consistory was dealing with an organization in the Church.

And now matters were hastened.

At the consistory meeting of Oct. 23, there was presented a request, signed by eighty-six members of the congregation, men and women this time, that the consistory apply to the Classical Committee for an early meeting of the classis. While the consistory was busy treating the protest of the fifty members, the leaders of this movement had, evidently, been preparing this request for an early classis.

The request reads as follows:

"The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Worthy Brethren:--

"Undersigned, members of the Christian Reformed Church of Eastern Avenue hereby request, that the Consistory decide upon the necessary measures for the convocation of a special classis. Reason for this request is, that it has become impossible for the faithful members of Eastern Avenue Church who constitute the congregation proper, to co-operated with the present pastor and consistory. With the pastor co-operation is impossible, because, according to the first issue of the Standard Bearer, he purposes to maintain the standpoint that was condemned by the Synod.

"And with the Consistory co-operation is impossible because they will not subject themselves to the classis; and because, by the convocation of the congregational meeting for the purpose of seeking support with her against the classis, they actually separated themselves from the denomination. It needs no further argumentation, that under the present circumstances co-operation of the congregation proper of Eastern Avenue with such a pastor and consistory is simply impossible.

"We hope, that the Consistory, too, will realize the necessity of a special classis. In case they should be thus inclined, we expect that they will apply to the Classical Committee to convoke a meeting not later than November 18. In case, however, that within a week, neither the Classical Committee, nor any of us has been notified to the effect that the Consistory is taking steps towards the convocation of such a special meeting of classis, we, as the faithful members of the congregation will turn with our request to obtain such a special meeting of classis to the Classical Committee or, if necessary, to other congregations of the classis, in order that the Reformed doctrine and the principles of Reformed Church Polity may be maintained."

The reader will have noticed that the petitioners in their request make mention of The Standard Bearer.

A word or two must, therefore, be said about this magazine.

Although the first issue of this periodical appeared in October, 1924, the purpose to publish a paper devoted to the development and dissemination of the Reformed truth, was conceived much earlier. In fact, in their brochure: Om Recht en Waarheid (For Justice and Truth), the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema already announced their intention to publish a monthly paper in which they might develop the truth. Even before the monthly was published several brethren, interested in the cause of Reformed truth, had organized a society under the name "Reformed Free Publishing Association" for the purpose of making possible, from a financial aspect, the publication of literature, prepared by the two above-mentioned ministers. Through the efforts of this association the first issue of The Standard Bearer, then edited by the Reverends H. Danhof, G.M. Ophoff and H. Hoeksema and Mr. G. Van Beek, appeared in October, 1924. The paper was published as a monthly, later as a semi monthly; and at this writing is still being published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

In an editorial appearing in the first number the announcement was made that the editors were co-responsible for the entire contents of the paper.

The same editorial contained the following statement: "Our view underwent no change and we do not think of retreating. The editorial staff of this paper judges, that no Reformed person is able to sign the declarations of Synod (the reference is to the "Three Points"), according to their real import and tendency. It will attempt, therefore, to make the reader understand the real sense of these declarations; in order that, after sufficient study, each and everyone may act with true knowledge of his act and its consequences."

The reader will now be able to understand the remark by the petitioners in the above request concerning The Standard Bearer.

For the rest, it can hardly have escaped the attention of the reader, that while the petition is virtually an act of separation from the Church of Eastern Avenue, it is characterized by a contradiction as glaring as it is strange. On the one hand, the signers of this document declare themselves to be the faithful members of the Eastern Avenue Church, yea, the congregation proper! These are, first of all, bold statements. The reader must know that the eighty-six petitioners constituted approximately only a twenty-fifth part of the entire congregation proper. Now, we do not deny, that such a small part can, under certain circumstances, actually be the congregation proper. But notice, that they did apparently not have the courage of their conviction, and that they did not act as if they really were the congregation. They were not organized and duly instituted as a congregation, nor had they put forth any effort to become so instituted. On the contrary, this congregation proper applied to the consistory that was then in office, which these faithful members refused to recognize, and yet did recognize, as their consistory; which they declared to be outside of the congregation proper, yet addressed as if they were the duly functioning consistory of the congregation proper; and they requested this consistory, which, according to their statements, they adjudged outside of the denomination, to ask for a special session of the classis! They recognized the consistory which they refused to recognize; and they denied by this very action their own contention that they were the congregation proper!

What, in view of their contention that they were the congregation proper, would have been the proper mode of procedure for them to follow, cannot be a matter for doubt to anyone that is acquainted with Reformed Church Polity. They should have submitted their contention to classis, together with the request to be duly instituted as the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Chruch. The classis should then have aided them in the election and installation of officebearers. And in order to be able to take this step properly, they should have called a meeting of all the "faithful members," prior to any other step, in order to declare themselves the congregation properand to depose the consistory that was then functioning.

However, the evident contradiction between their strong statements and their action does not seem incapable of explanation. Many of them, it may be granted, acted ignorantly, knowing no more of Reformed Chruch Polity than a press reporter understands Einstein’s theory of relativity. Besides, it is evident from the wording of the request, that they received and listened to advice from two sharply opposed groups of leaders in the Christian Reformed Churches, that entertained divergent views on the question of church government. On the one side there was the group, headed in those days by Doctor J. Van Lonkhuyzen, according to whose conception the consistory is the sole ruling body in the church, and neither classis nor synod have judicatory power over the local church. They hold that a consistory is not subject to a classis and that the latter cannot depose the former. On the other hand there was the view far more generally held, defended by the late professor W. Heyns, as well as maintained by the Reverend G. Hoeksema, brother of one of the signers of the petition, according to which classis and synod are higher powers and a consistory is in duty bound to submit to their decisions. Now, the signers of the request printed above were, evidently, influenced by both these opposing conceptions of church government, and, not clearly distinguishing the two, combined them into one glaring contradiction. Under the influence of the former view they declared themselves to be the faithful members and the congregation proper, even before they had a meeting or had petitioned classis to be duly instituted as the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, and before the consistory, then in office and functioning, had been deposed. But they followed the latter view of the Reformed Church Polity when they still recognized the consistory then in office, demanded of them that they should submit themselves to the classical decisions and petitioned them to ask the Classical Committee for a special session of classis.

While, therefore, they did not have the courage of their convictions, they nevertheless presented to the consistory what was, in effect, an act of separation from the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

The consistory decided to answer the petitioners that they felt no need of calling an early or special session of the classis especially in view of the fact, that they were still busy treating the protest of the fifty members, who, as the reader will understand, were also signers of the request for a special classis. They also decided to inform the Classical Committee about this matter, and in case the petitioners would appeal to this committee, to ask them not to accede to the request.

A few days after the consistory had taken this decision with respect to the request for a special meeting of the classis, someone brought to the attention of the consistory a printed pamphlet, which he had found on the street, and which was a copy of a request the same eighty-six petitioners had drawn up, even before they could possibly have received an answer from the consistory on their first petition. This printed request was addressed to the Classical Committee and urged them to convoke a special meeting of classis. The copy that was found on the street was not signed, but later the Classical Committee informed the consistory that the petition as they received it was signed by ninety-two members.

In this petition several reasons were offered why such a special meeting of classis should be called by the Classical Committee. We shall here enumerate them:

1. They tried to prove to the Classical Committee that they could not possibly co-operate with the pastor and consistory of Eastern Avenue Church. They alleged that it was spiritually impossible for them to listen to the preaching of the pastor; that many of them refused to send their children to catechism; that some of them refused to present their children for baptism; that they all refused to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with the pastor and the consistory. All of which was true in a limited sense of the word; all of which revealed that they could not and would not co-operate; but none of which proved that the fault of all this lay with the consistory, which it certainly did not.

2. They alleged that communion of saints had become impossible for the congregation of Eastern Avenue Church. There were, they declared, two parties in the congregation, and the party that was opposed to them, the petitioners, would gladly, if possible, extinguish them, the faithful members and congregation proper, with their looks of hatred and enmity. They declared that they were being slandered terribly, and that they received nasty and even threatening letters. The atmosphere in the congregation simply had become suffocating! All of which presented a very distorted view of the congregation, in whose midst, but for the attitude of those that considered themselves the faithful members and that were comparatively few, peace, love and harmony reigned supreme. There were no parties, and the slanderings and nasty letters of which the protestants spoke as if they were general and daily occurrences, certainly belonged to the extreme exceptions. It may rather be considered marvellous that the congregation as a whole behaved so well over against those that openly declared themselves to be the only faithful members and the congregation proper!

3. There were, the petitioners alleged, still people in the congregation that might be saved for the Church, if classis would only not delay to act. In this they revealed their ignorance of the actual condition and stand of the congregation; and in this they were sadly disappointed; when the classis acted the effect on some, that probably were not stable, was decidedly in the opposite direction.

4. As long as the then present conditions continued, they alleged, the minister and consistory were in power and could arbitrarily censure members, whose chief sin was, that they defended the truth of the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions! Which was altogether untrue, as one may read on the very face of the assertion.

5. To protest, they declared, had become impossible with the consistory of Eastern Avenue Church. Not one protest had been treated! They had been set aside because of some technicality and the protestants had been placed under censure. All of which is quite untrue. It certainly could not be blamed to the consistory, that the protestants disregarded all rules of Christian love and good order in the Church; that they accused the pastor of public sin; that they circulated protests in the congregation without even asking the consent of the consistory; that they accused the consistory of rebellion and mutiny for calling an orderly congregational meeting; that they delivered their protests to the consistory in such quick succession, that the consistory would have been compelled to meet almost every evening at the pleasure of a few dissatisfied members, in order to treat them properly. Surely, the consistory persistently refused to treat their protests in their way; but they treated them all in the proper way, nevertheless.

6. The consistory, they boldly stated, refused to treat the chief cause of all the trouble, the matter about which all the rest was concentrated. Here the protestants evidently referred to the pastor’s attitude to the three points and their own demand that he should be requested to sign them. And, therefore, also this statement of theirs was a plain untruth. The consistory had clearly answered the protestants. That they would not demand of the pastor that he sign the three points. The only trouble had been with the protestants themselves, for they had refused to appear in the proper way before the consistory to receive the answer to the protest.

7. The honor of the Christian Reformed Churches demanded that the classis would take action. They, the faithful brethren and congregation proper, were struggling and being oppressed, because they sought to maintain the Reformed truth. It was but proper that they should be aided against the arbitrary actions of a rebellious consistory! While the truth of the matter is that they were not being oppressed at all.

8. Several leaders of the Churches expected that the classis would take action. And in this they spoke undoubtedly the truth. But as to whether this could properly serve as a reason for calling a special session of classis, let the reader judge.

Now, what might a Classical Committee, receiving such a petition, from a comparatively small group in a congregation, be expected to do?

We would be inclined to judge that it might have been expected that they would have severely reprimanded these ninety-two petitioners for their self-confessed disorderly conduct in the congregation of Eastern Avenue Church; that they would have taken them to task, because they declared themselves to be the congregation proper, because they admittedly refused to partake of the Lord’s Supper, because they neglected the baptism of their children, because they failed to send their children to catechism; and that, thereupon, they would have informed them that they refused their request.

But let us not be extreme!

Let us not ask, what at the very most, but what at the very least might be expected of a Classical Committee under the circumstances.

And then there is no reason to fear that the answer will be judged unfair by any unprejudiced tribunal: they should, at least, have applied to the consistory concerned for further information.

But even this they did not do.

Although they had a notice from the consistory that the condition of the congregation demanded no special session of classis, they took no cognizance of the consistory at all; they merely considered the request of a small group of dissatisfied members; and upon that basis they decided that the condition of the Eastern Avenue Church was sufficiently critical to justify the calling of a special session of Classis!

And of this decision they sent notice to the consistory!

What else can be said of such action of a mere committee than that it was an act of high-handed hierarchy?

Chapter 7 - A congregational meeting and its results.

There are times when a consistory may deem it necessary and expedient to supply the congregation with official information about the important matters and decisions.

There are especially times in which the consistory apprehends that the congregation may be compelled to take a position in matters that are of momentous importance to them, such as a possible deposition of their pastor and consistory and separation from the denomination in which they have a place.

In such matters the congregation is vitally concerned.

And it is, of course, essential that when the moment of decision arrives in such deeply important matters, the congregation should have all the information and light necessary to choose and to take a position consciously.

Besides, it is often at such times that the congregation is exposed to the danger of obtaining their information from unofficial and very unreliable sources. The air is often filled with rumors that are as wild as they are false. And malcontents, apprehending a separation and split in the congregation, do not hesitate to make propaganda for their views in order to gain the largest possible number of adherents to their side. And, as is always the case in such times, a goodly number of members know not what it is all about and are agitated and kept in suspension.

Such were the days following the sessions of Classis Grand Rapids East on August 20, 1924.

The consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church clearly understood the implications of the classical decisions regarding the censure of the three protestants. And their duty in the matter was to them not a matter of doubt. They never considered the possibility of submitting to the decisions of classis and thus profaning the Lord’s Supper. Still less was it necessary for them to deliberate on the question whether or not their pastor were guilty of a public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order.

On the one hand, the consistory realized the momentous and fatal import of the classical advice. They understood that to refuse to carry out this advice implied the first step of separation from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Churches, an important matter, indeed, in which not only they but the whole congregation were vitally concerned.

Besides, many members of the congregation had been present at the evening session of classis on Aug. 20 and had followed the proceedings. Several had expressed their indignation at the injustice of the classical decisions and their intention to protest against them.

Malcontents did a good deal of talking, as might be expected under the circumstances and tried to keep the congregation in a state of agitation.

Small wonder, then, that we read in the minutes of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church the following decision:

"The act and attitude of the classis concerning the censure of the three brethren were discussed. After a long discussion it was decided to call a congregational meeting and to inform the congregation about the status of the case. Several members of the congregation request that they may protest against the action of the classis. The congregational meeting will be held on Sept. 2. It will be a meeting of all confessing members, male and female. Information will be given at the meeting and opportunity offered to protest against the action of classis" (Minutes of the consistory of Eastern Avenue, Aug. 22, Art. 2).

The opposition was not very well pleased with this step of the consistory. This is evident from the severe criticism to which it was subjected. Cries of indignation were heard everywhere. The Reverends Manni and Van Dellen took the consistory to task in De Wachter. Doctor Van Lonkhuyzen gave vent to his feeling about it in Onze Toekomst. And even Doctor V. Hepp of the Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, could not refrain from expressing his opinion of this congregational meeting in De Reformatie. With one accord, and in language that was indicative of their indignation, they condemned the action of the consistory to call such a meeting of the congregation as in conflict with every principle of Reformed Church Polity.

But was this decision of the consistory actually a violation of any Reformed principle of Church government?

It might have been if the opposition’s representation of the character of this meeting were in harmony with the truth and with the facts.

But this was not the case.

The two principle objections the opposition party raised were: 1. That at this meeting a case of censure was submitted to the vote of the congregation, an act whereby, it was alleged, the consistory divested itself of its own authority and allowed the congregation to rule. 2. That at this meeting woman suffrage was introduced in the Church, since "women and girls" were invited to be present and to "vote" on the matter.

But neither of these objections are valid for the simple reason that no such meeting as described by the opponents in raising these objections was ever held. At the particular congregational meeting that was held in the Eastern Avenue Church on the second of September, 1924, no censure case, nor any other matter was submitted by the consistory to the vote of the congregation. The consistory felt no need of advice, still less of a congregational decision in the matter of the censure of the three protestants. They were quite decided and fully determined as to their own calling in this case. Nor was the meeting that was called considered a body with the power to decide anything by majority-vote. It was merely a gathering of the individual members of the Eastern Avenue Church.

That this is a correct presentation of the matter is evident from the minutes of the consistory as quoted above. The purpose of the meeting is described in the following sentence: "Information will be given at the meeting and opportunity offered to protest against the decision of Classis."

And this purpose was strictly carried out.

A large number of members responded to the call of the consistory. And the meeting was as orderly as the gatherings for public worship on the sabbath. The pastor, speaking for the consistory, informed the congregation about the entire controversy, chiefly by reading from the Acts of Synod, 1924, and from other official documents. Not even the opponents that were present could complain that the truth was not presented as objectively as possible. Besides, the congregation was admonished to maintain the spirit of Christian love and to avoid all strife and disorder at a time of trouble and disturbance. There was no discussion. Neither was there voting by any acclamation or by ballot. No decision of any kind was taken by the meeting. And since no vote was taken at all it is evident that also the charge that woman suffrage was introduced is ridiculous. Opportunity was given to all present to register their protest by the distribution of cards on which the following was printed:

"Undersigned, member in full communion of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, hereby desires to protest against the decision of Classis Grand Rapids East, whereby brethren were sustained in their attitude against the pastor and consistory, and the latter was advised to admit the brethren to the table of the Lord.

"At the same time undersigned hereby expresses that it is his (her) wish that the consistory do not carry out the decision of Classis, since he (she) could not celebrate the Lord’s Supper with these brethren under the circumstances."

It would be rather difficult for the critics to prove from the Church Order that the congregational meeting in question was, indeed, in conflict with all the fundamental principles of Reformed Church Polity. To be sure, it as a bit uncommon; perhaps, we may say irregular. But it can hardly be shown that it is against the Church Order that a consistory takes the congregation into its confidence, and supplies it with much needed information in an official way, especially in a matter in which the congregation is so vitally interested as a step that may result in a separation from the denomination. Nor would it be easy to prove that a congregation has no right to protest against the action of a classis; or to deny the expedience of affording the members of a congregation an opportunity to protest against such action in an orderly way, that is under the direction of the consistory. And what could be urged against the right of the members, to express their wish in a certain matter of importance, or against the right of the consistory to ascertain the wish of the congregation? Does not the consistory follow the same method when it asks the members of the congregation to call the attention of the consistory to certain names, before a nomination for office-bearers is made?

It may be admitted, that the criticism of the opponents relative to this particular meeting of the congregation of Eastern Avenue, mistaken though it may be, is perfectly explicable. They, too, could even at that time easily foresee that matters were coming to a head, and that a separation would be the final result. Nor was it more than human in their case to desire that as large a number of the congregation as possible would be gained for their side, and, in case of a split, remain loyal to the denomination. Their ultimate aim was the deposition of the pastor, if necessary also the consistory, but not the loss of the congregation. And in order to reach this aim, it was desirable that the consistory should leave them free play, to influence as many members of the congregation as could be approached in their favor. The decision of the consistory, however, frustrated all such plans and efforts. The congregational meeting served the purpose of enlightening many that might otherwise have remained more or less ignorant of the truth in the matter, and enabled the congregation to take a conscious stand against the unrighteous acts and corrupt practices of the classis. In every respect the congregational meeting had a salutary effect; and the consistory might well be thankful to the Lord, because He directed them to take this step, which certainly was wholly within the limits of Reformed Church Polity.

The outcome of the meeting was encouraging beyond all expectations.

That evening of Sept. 2, 1924, more than eight hundred members signed the cards and registered their protest against the classis. And this number was greatly augmented during the days following the meeting. The congregation certainly revealed that they stood on the side of the consistory as one man, and in this position they were established through subsequent activities of the opponents and decisions of the classis. How solidly they were united may be gathered from the fact, that, when ultimately they had to abandon the church property to the comparatively small number that remained with the denomination, they remained unmovable to the very last man.

There is, therefore, nothing inexplicable in the fact that the congregational meeting infuriated the opponents and roused them to further action.

This soon became evident.

Before the meeting of the consistory held on Sept. 12 there was a protest, signed by eleven members of the congregation. It is curious that this protest had been prepared before the congregational meeting was held, for it was presented on the evening of Sept. 2. However, because on that evening no consistory meeting was held, the protest was not officially received till the evening of Sept. 12.

The document is here printed in its entirety:

"The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Sept. 2, 1924.

"Worthy Brethren:

"Undersigned, members of this congregation, most emphatically protest against the decision of the consistory to convoke a congregational meeting on the evening of Sept 2, 1924. According to the announcement this meeting will be held to give the congregation an opportunity to express itself, whether in the controversy between the classis and consistory, it will choose for the former or for the latter.

"We consider this movement an act of mutiny and rebellion and to be in conflict with every sound principle of Reformed Church government. It can only be interpreted as an attempt, deeply sinful, to arouse the congregation, that will hear only one side of the case, against classis and synod. Our Church Order knows of no right to appeal except to classis or synod. To appeal to a congregational meeting is illegal, disorderly and can only be conducive to disharmony and schism.

"Our protest is also directed against the admission of women and girls to this meeting. Our congregation never gave women the right to vote, and now such a critical case as this is to be decided, liable to have far-reaching results, we consider it very careless, arbitrary, and an act of mutiny, that the consistory on its own authority gives to women the same rights as to the men.

"Believing that the consistory is making itself deeply guilty of unreformed actions and wanton assumption of power, we remain," (was signed by: Henry B. De Haan, Peter Van Hekken, E. De Haan, William Holwerda, T. Vander Lugt, S. Jolman, B. H. Ritsema, John W. Holwerda, George Bylsma, Jan Datema, John Koorndyk.)

The extremely strong language of this protest witnesses rather of the fact, that feelings ran high than of calm deliberation. It would hardly have been necessary for the protestants to declare expressly that they protested "most emphatically,’ in as far as mere strong terms can be considered emphatic. The brethren speak of mutiny and rebellion, and assert that the decision of the consistory is in conflict with every sound principle of Reformed Church government; the consistory makes a deeply sinful attempt to rouse the congregation against the classis and the synod; and is deeply guilty of unreformed acts and wanton assumption of power! In view of these high sounding phrases and strong indictments one might expect some proof, at least, to substantiate the charges made. But, except the general statement "our Church Order knows of no right of appeal except to classis and synod," one cannot even discover an attempt to prove the accusations. Besides, partly due, perhaps, to the fact that the protest was presented before the meeting of the congregation was held, the protestants reveal their ignorance of the purpose and character of the proposed congregational gathering. The protest, at least, is a gross misrepresentation. The consistory was not appealing to the congregation, no matters were to be decided at the meeting at all, no vote was to be taken, and, therefore, no woman suffrage was introduced whatsoever. This total want of proof and gross misrepresentation in the protest does not serve to make it more "emphatic."

The consistory decided to invite the protestants to appear before its meeting of Sept. 25. According to its sound custom, however, the consistory refused to acknowledge the existence of a body of eleven in the congregation and requested that each of the protestants appear individually. This, however, they refused to do, and the matter was dropped.

Nor was there any further need of treating the protest of the eleven members. The opponents had not been idle since the congregational meeting, as was evident from the fact that at the consistory meeting of Sept. 12 there was also presented a second protest, signed by fifty confessing members of the congregation. Also of this protest we here print the text in full:

"The Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

"Honorable Brethren:

"Undersigned, members of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, feel urged to bring the following matters to the attention of the consistory:

"1. We request the Consistory to demand of our pastor, Reverend H. Hoeksema, the promise that henceforth, both in preaching and writing, he shall abide by the Word of God and the Confession, especially by the three points recently established by the Synod of Kalamazoo, concerning the favor of God toward mankind in general, the restraint of sin and the civil righteousness. We also ask that it be announced from the pulpit that the pastor will submit to these three points, since we are convinced that only in this way peace and harmony will return to the congregation.

"2. We ask of the Consistory that it submit to the decisions of our larger gatherings, particularly to the decision, already taken twice, that the censure of the three brethren be lifted. Since this decision of our Classis is based on a Synodical decision, it is ecclesiastical rebellion not to submit to it. If our consistory will not submit to this decision, our conscience will forbid us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with a consistory that lives in rebellion and we shall be compelled to bring our accusation against the Consistory to Classis.

"3. We protest against the meeting of the congregation that was held on Sept. 2, on the following grounds:

"(a) Appeal to the people over against the classical decisions regarding matters that concern the government of the church is a thing directly conflicting with all principles of Reformed Church Polity.

"(b) Women and young girls were also urged to attend and to vote, entirely in opposition to the old rule that only male members have the right to vote.

"We ask the consistory to treat these matters as quickly as is convenient. We ask to deliver and answer before or on Oct. 1, 1924, at the address of W. Holwerda, 9000 Baxter Street, or of F. Boerkool, 634 Fulton Street. The untenable condition in our congregation must soon come to an end, if necessary through the convocation of a special classis. To quote the words of our pastor: ‘This cannot possibly continue.’

It is noteworthy that this protest revealed an organized movement in the congregation. Without the consent of the consistory four copies of this protest had been circulated through the congregation by the leaders of this movement. In this way the fifty signatures had been obtained. This is worthy of note, first of all in view of the fact that these same leaders loudly complained of the rebellious attitude of the consistory because it refused to execute the decisions of the classis, and they accused the consistory of mutiny because of its convocation of an orderly meeting of the congregation. And, secondly, it proves that the consistory had not misjudged the situation, when it considered it necessary to call a congregational meeting and to furnish all the members with direct and truthful information rather than leave them exposed to misrepresenting propaganda of individuals.

As to the contents of the protest, we may note first of all, that it proceeds from an erroneous, viz., a collegialistic conception of Church-government. That the consistory refused to carry out the decisions of classis it characterizes as an act of rebellion. Now, rebellion is possible only against authorities. The protest conceives of the classis, therefore, as a kind of higher court with relation to the consistory. And this is contrary to sound Reformed Church Polity, according to which the sole ruling body in the Church is the consistory. A classis is a broader gathering, not a higher court. It has advisory, no judicatory power. In the case under consideration the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church certainly had the right to refuse to follow up the advice of the classis to lift the censure of the three protestants. And, as we have seen, it had good grounds for this refusal. This persistent refusal might, indeed, ultimately lead to separation; in fact it was such an act of separation in principle; but even an act of separation is no rebellion. Any consistory must certainly be conceded the right to separate, when the decisions of the broader gathering are contrary to the Word of God. And it would have been contrary to the Word of God, had the consistory allowed the three members that manifested a spirit of hatred against their pastor and decided to maintain their accusation of public sin against him, to partake of the Lord’s Supper together with him.

Secondly, we may also note that these protestants, on their part, here begin to separate themselves from the congregation. for, they openly declare that they refuse to celebrate communion with the consistory, unless their protest is decided in their favor and their requests are granted.

The lines of demarcation were being drawn; the wedge of separation, inserted by the synod, and struck a severe blow by the classis of Aug. 20, was driven in more deeply.

We are, therefore, not surprised that in this protest, for the first time, the main issue is brought to the foreground. For, the protestants requested that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church be compelled to submit to the "Three Points."

It may also be remarked in this connection that these fifty protestants were bold to declare far more than the synod of 1924 had decided. For, they assert by implication that it is impossible to abide, in teaching and preaching, by the Word of God and the Confessions, unless one submits to the doctrinal declarations of the "Three Points"; while the synod had declared that those whose teachings deviated from the "Three Points" were, nevertheless, fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions. But to take this step in advance of the synod the protestants had undoubtedly, been encouraged by the decisions of the classis of Aug. 20, by which the three censured members had been sustained in their accusation of public sin against the pastor.

For the rest, we may be thankful that at this time God used these fifty protestants to bring the doctrinal issue to the foreground. This was after all the main issue. All other matters, such as the censure of the three protestants, were, indeed, the outcome of the doctrinal controversy; yet, they were secondary in importance. At the root of all the trouble lay the doctrinal question of general or particular grace, with its corollary in the question concerning the confession or denial of the total depravity of the natural man. After all, in the midst of much confusion and ambiguity, the synod of 1924 had adopted three doctrinal principles that were a corruption of the Reformed doctrine of particular grace, as well as of the truth that the natural man, apart from the regenerating grace of the Spirit, can perform no good works. Deplorable it would have been if this main issue had been side-tracked and the attention had been concentrated upon secondary matters. This danger certainly existed until the Lord Himself forced the main issue to the foreground once more through the means of this protest by the fifty members of the congregation of Eastern Avenue.

No church-political differences but doctrinal principles of fundamental significance were at stake in the conflict of 1924. and that this should become clearly manifest was, evidently, the will of our God.

Chapter 6 - Classis Grand Rapids East, August 1924.

             Not many weeks elapsed after the adjournment of the Synod of Kalamazoo before it became evident that the decisions of that body were not conducive to a settlement of the controversy about the theory of common grace.

            Neither of the opposing sides was satisfied.

            This was not surprising.  In fact, it was exactly what might be expected.  The very nature of the decisions of synod was such as to give birth to further trouble.

            The conclusions of synod were too ambiguous to settle anything.

            On the one hand, synod adopted three doctrinal statements that were Arminian and Pelagian in tendency; it had declared, quite correctly, that the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema deviated from these doctrinal declarations; it had decided to admonish the two pastors to abide by the doctrinal decision of synod; and this might easily be enlarged upon by hostile opponents and be forged into new weapons of attack.

            On the other hand, synod had not condemned the views of the two pastors as being unreformed; it had even given them the splendid testimony that they were fundamentally reformed in the light of the Confession; it had failed to carry out its own decisions regarding the admonition that was to be administered to the two pastors; it had not demanded a single promise of them; it had examined their writings and had not demanded that they recant a single statement; and it had not decided that the two pastors should be disciplined because of their views.  What was more serious, before the synod adjourned the protest of the Reverend H. Danhof was read before that body, in which the protestant openly declared that he did not agree with the doctrinal declarations of the synod, that he would not abide by them, but that he would rather oppose them with every means at his command.  And even then synod had failed to take further action!

            It can readily be seen that the two pastors, though certainly not agreeing with the doctrinal declarations of synod, had every reason to take the stand that synod had given the opponents no further ground for action against them.  The entire matter, together with the request that the two pastors should be disciplined had been carried, directly and by way of appeal, to the broadest gathering of the churches.  And synod had virtually decided that there was no cause for action.  A motion of its committee to administer to the two pastors a synodical spanking it had rejected.  Although the synod had definitely settled nothing, on the basis of the synodical decisions no action could be undertaken against the two ministers.

            Yet, such action was started by the opponents soon after the Synod of Kalamazoo had adjourned.

            They were encouraged to renew their attacks on the two pastors by certain articles written by Doctor J. Van Lonkhuyzen, at that time pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, Ill., in Onze Toekomst, a paper edited by him about the time of our history; and by the articles of the Reverend I. Van Dellen in De Wachter, one of the official organs of the Christian Reformed Churches.  The former criticized the work of the Synod of Kalamazoo severely, because it had failed to make proper provisions for the exercise of discipline upon the two accused pastors.  He, indeed, lauded the work of the synod in as far as its doctrinal declarations were concerned and he heartily agreed with the “Three Points”.  But the synod had not finished its work, seeing it had failed to formulate definite advice with a view to necessary discipline.  And he stated as his position, which was undoubtedly correct, that the synod had left the two ministers at liberty to preach and teach and propagate their views with respect to the common grace question.  The Reverend Van Dellen, however, replied that it had exactly been the purpose of the synod to leave all actual discipline to the minor assemblies and to have it initiated by the consistories of the two pastors if necessary.  The latter’s opinion, however, was a mere personal and subjective interpretation of the decisions of synod, which, besides, can easily be proven erroneous.  Synod had considered the advice to disciplinary measures presented by its committee.  And it had rejected it, not on the ground that discipline must begin with the minor assemblies, but simply by adopting a substitute motion that without any expressed reason omitted the advice concerning discipline.  Yet, the very ambiguity of the synodical decisions afforded the Reverend Van Dellen room for his interpretations with a semblance of truth.

            Besides, the first three protestants that had started action against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, as well as the Reverend J. Vander Mey were still under censure.  And this censure provided a practical opportunity for the re-opening of the entire common grace case in Classis Grand Rapids East.

            It will, therefore, not be superfluous to recall at this time the chief factors in the history of this censure.  They are the following: 1. The three protestants, having refused to discuss the matter of their protest with their pastor, sought to have it received and acted upon by the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, alleging as a ground for its acceptance that the pastor was guilty of a public sin.  2. The consistory could not admit this ground and, therefore, refused to receive the protest, and demanded that the protestants retract their accusation.  When the latter refused to comply with the demand of the consistory they were barred from partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the ground that they could not sit at the table of communion with a pastor whom they accused of public sin.  3. The protestants then appealed to classis with their protest against the pastor, at the same time protesting against their being censured by the consistory.  The classis, as we have seen, decided after much wrangling that the protest against the pastor should be referred back to the consistory, but at the same time advised the consistory to raise the censure against the three protestants, without, however, advising the latter that they should retract their accusation.  4. The protestants thereupon took their entire protest by way of appeal to synod, so that it certainly became the task of that body to determine whether or not the pastor of Eastern Avenue was guilty of the alleged public sin.  Synod, however, as we have seen, made some ambiguous declarations and decisions, but in no way justified the three protestants in their accusation of public sin against the pastor.  On the contrary it had declared that the pastor was fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions. Such was the status of this case after synod had adjourned.

            As to the censure imposed upon the Reverend J. Vander Mey, it is sufficient to recall that he refused to confess his sin of having made propaganda against the pastor by distributing his protest in the form of a printed pamphlet even before it was presented to the consistory and without discussing the matter with the pastor or even offering him a copy of the protest.

            After the synod the consistory labored with the censured protestants.  They insisted that the three original protestants should retract their accusation of public sin, especially in view of the fact that in this accusation they had not been sustained by the decisions of synod; and they attempted to persuade the Reverend Vander Mey to confess his sin.  It was, however, all in vain.  The former replied with the unreasonable and unchristian demand that they be permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper while they maintained their accusation; the latter and his wife aggravated matters by assuming an attitude of hatred and disrespect over against the consistory. This matter, then, was brought to the attention of Classis Grand Rapids East, convened in the Bates Street Christian Reformed church on August 20, 1924.  And it was presented to classis by way of an overture from the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, accompanied by a letter of information; and by way of protests on the part of the censured members.

            The overture was a request by the consistory of Eastern Avenue that the classis should rescind its former decision according to which the consistory had been advised to raise the censure of the protestants; in case the classis should refuse this request the consistory informed the classis that it would appeal to synod.

            The letter of information that accompanied this overture is here reprinted in full:

            “Information of the consistory of Eastern Avenue regarding its request that classis rescind its decision relative to the censure of the brethren W. Hoeksema, J. De Hoog, and H. Vander Vennen.

            “The consistory would bring to the attention of the classis, first of all, that the reason why the above mentioned brethren were barred from the Lord’s table must not be sought in the fact, that they protested against the pastor.  Thus the matter, has, indeed, been presented and this appears to be still the notion of many.  This allegation was also made on the floor of the synod; and thus it was also presented in that unchristian little article that appeared in The Grand Rapids Press of Aug. 16.  This presentation is entirely erroneous.  The brethren were barred from the table of the Lord only because of their direct accusation of public sin against the pastor and refused to retract their accusation when this was demanded of them by the consistory.  The consistory was of the opinion that they could not very well partake of the Lord’s Supper together with the pastor as long as they had in their heart and maintained this accusation against him.

            “Thus the case stood even before the last meeting of Classis.  At present, however, it has reached a more advanced stage.  For, the brethren took their protest to Classis.  When Classis judged that their protest should be referred back to the consistory, and at the same time that the censure over the three brethren should be lifted, they were not satisfied but took their protest to Synod.  by that broadest gathering of our Churches their protest, in which they alleged, explained and defended that the pastor was guilty of a public sin, was treated and finished.  The matter of their protest, therefore, was a closed case.  Synod, however, did not support their contention of public sin.  For it is evident that either of two alternatives must be demanded in case of a public sin: that the sinner make public confession of his sin; or that he be disciplined by the proper ecclesiastical body.  But Synod decided upon neither of these.  That body did not discipline the pastor, neither advised to discipline him.  Nor did it demand of him a public confession.  The pastor, therefore, is still a minister in good and regular standing, also after the Synod treated the protest of the three brethren.  Besides, synod expressed, indeed, that the pastor is one-sided in his views, but also that he is fundamentally Reformed.  The standpoint of Synod, therefore, certainly differs from that of the three brethren, who brought an accusation of public sin against him and demanded that he be disciplined.

            “The consistory is, therefore, of the opinion, that after Synod expressed itself, the brethren must abide within the limits of that synodical decision and their accusation of public sin must stop.  This, however, they refuse to do.  They want to maintain that the pastor is guilty of a public sin, continue to assume a hostile attitude against the pastor and the consistory and thus be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.  This the consistory cannot and may not permit.  As long as they maintain such an attitude against the pastor and the consistory they cannot be considered worthy partakers of the table of the Lord.

            “All this is corroborated by the attitude the brethren assumed since the last meeting of Classis.  They do not attend public worship, or are careful to attend when the pastor is not preaching.  Mr. Vander Mey and his wife were never in the Eastern Avenue Church again; both refused absolutely to attend church, he per letter, she orally before a committee of the consistory.  Besides, they refused to address the consistory as brethren.  The protest which the three brethren filed with the consistory a few weeks ago had first been introduced by the usual ‘Dear Brethren’ but after ward this had been roughly scratched out by a knife.  A committee of the consistory was put out of the house by Mrs. Vander Mey in a most impolite way.  Hardly had they entered when it was told them: ‘Get out! There is the door!’  The door was slammed behind them and the porch-light was extinguished before the brethren could come down the porch-steps.  And also the article that appeared in The Grand Rapids Press last Saturday evening, clearly shows what spirit is dominant in the brethren.  Thus the consistory is being insulted in every way and a spirit of bitter hostility is manifested.  And for these reasons the consistory cannot admit them to the Lord’s Supper.

            “The consistory demands nothing more than that the brethren keep themselves in word and attitude within the limits of the synodical decisions.  And according to these they may no longer maintain and spread abroad that the pastor is guilty of a public sin according to Art. 74 of the Church Order.  As soon as they are content with this they will be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

            “Now it is not clear to the consistory what is the force of the last decision of Classis with regard to the lifting of the censure of the three brethren.  It is not clear whether or not this decision is considered to have lost its force because the brethren took  their protest to the Synod and their case was treated by that body.  At any rate, the consistory requests the Classis that this decision be rescinded or be declared void, so that the censure need not be lifted as long as the brethren refuse to change their attitude.

            Classis appointed a committee to investigate this matter, formulate an opinion and serve the Classis with advice.  The delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church were asked to appear before this committee, complied with the request, delivered to them the letter of information printed above and served them with all possible information in the matter.  And they received the impression that the committee could very well understand that members with bitter enmity in their hearts against the pastor and the consistory could not be admitted to the supper of the Lord.

            However, when the same committee reported in the evening session of classis, it immediately became evident that they refused to see the matter in its proper light.

            The first part of their report concerned the case of Mr. Vander Mey.  The committee advised Classis to decide that the consistory of Eastern Avenue should remove this censure.  Their ground for this advice was that the censure of Mr. Vander Mey had been based on a false accusation.  It was not true, according to the committee, that he had distributed his protest against the pastor before he had delivered it to the consistory.  Only nine copies at most he had given away to parties outside of the consistory.  This part of the advice of the committee, however, was not adopted by the Classis.  In the discussion the consistory made plain that it made no essential difference to the point in question, whether Mr. Vander Mey had distributed nine copies or a thousand.  But, besides from the minutes of the Eastern Avenue consistory a statement by the Reverend Vander Mey was read to the effect that he had five hundred copies of his protest printed of which approximately four hundred were still in his possession.  These facts could not very well be denied.  The Classis, therefore, did not adopt the advice of its committee in this case.

            The second part of the report concerned the censure of the three original protestants.  This censure, they advised, should be lifted as soon as possible, on the ground that synod had sustained the accusation of these protestants against the pastor!

            And this part of the committee’s advice was adopted by Classis!  All the arguments of the delegates from the Eastern Avenue Church could not dissuade the Classis from taking this fatal decision.  It made no difference that they insisted that there was no item of proof in the Acta of Synod for the contention that this body had sustained the accusation of public sin against the pastor of Eastern Avenue; that they pointed out how Synod had utterly failed to give any advice with regard to discipline, although it passed judgment on the entire case, advice that certainly must have followed had it supported the protestants in their accusation of public sin in the sense of Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order; that they reminded the Classis of the fact that Synod had found and openly declared that the pastor was fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions; and that, finally, they emphasized that it was morally impossible and contrary to Scripture to admit the protestants to the table of the Lord in their manifestly bitter spirit and hostile attitude.  All of the arguments of the delegates fell on deaf ears.  It became evident that the Classis was determined to turn in the wrong direction.  The advice of the committee was adopted.

            It is hardly necessary to point out the injustice of this decision.

            It implied far more, of course, than the mere advice to lift the censure of the three protestants.  For, by implication the classis had decided to advise the consistory that its pastor should be suspended immediately. Had it not sustained the accusation of the protestants that the pastor was guilty of a public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order?  The Classis, therefore, had condemned the pastor without even a hearing on this point.  Before Synod convened, in the sessions of the May Classis, the pastor had earnestly invited the brethren to discuss the matter of the doctrine involved with him on the floor of the classis; but at that time the Classis refused all debate and discussion on the ground that Synod was the proper body to decide on matters of a doctrinal nature.  And after Synod, in its evening session of Aug. 20 the Classis simply sustained the accusation of public sin against the pastor, without even considering the matter, and in spite of the fact that the synodical decisions afforded no ground whatever for such a decision!

            Needless to say that the advice of the Classis was of such a nature that it was strictly impossible as well as morally wrong for the consistory to heed it.  And for this reason the decision was plainly the beginning of the end.  The wedge of separation, inserted by the Synod, was given a hard blow by Classis Grand Rapids East in its evening session of Aug. 20, 1924!

            Morally wrong it would be for the consistory to follow the advice of the Classis, because it implied that they would permit the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to be profaned.  To admit members to the table of the Lord of whom the consistory is convinced on more than sufficient ground that they are spiritually unworthy and wholly unfit to celebrate communion, that they can but eat and drink judgment to themselves, is a gross sin. Yet, to commit this sin was exactly the advice of the Classis!

            Impossible it was for the consistory to heed the advice of the Classis for this very reason, that they would have to obey God rather than men.  But it was equally impossible to follow the advice of the Classis, because by admitting the protestants to the Lord’s table the consistory would express its agreement with the ground of the classical advice, that the pastor was, indeed, guilty of public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order.  Here the consistory had no other choice than to follow the advice of the Classis, admit the protestants to communion and, at the same time, condemn and suspend its pastor, or to refuse to heed this advice.

            And it is necessary to state this concisely.

            The consistory of Eastern Avenue was often accused of stubbornness in dealing with this matter.  Had the consistory been less obstinate and headstrong, had they revealed a more conciliatory spirit and showed a willingness to make some concessions, the separation might have been avoided!  But let the reader judge.  What concessions could the consistory have made in this matter?  Is it, then, not convincingly clear that the Classis of August 20 placed the consistory before the alternative of admitting the protestants to the Lord’s table and suspending its pastor on the basis of the accusation of public sin, or taking the first step of separation: refusal to abide by the advice of Classis?  The former was impossible, for the consistory was deeply convinced that the accusation of public sin was utterly false.

            The Classis of Aug. 20, 1924 therefore, forced the consistory of Eastern Avenue to take the first step that finally must lead to separation.

            Not the consistory but the Classis was the real cause of the schism.

            Besides, it must be evident to any fair-minded reader that the Classis went  far beyond the decisions of the Synod of Kalamazoo.

            There is a wide different between the declaration that a minister is fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness, and the indictment of public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order.

            The clear truth Classis would have expressed had it decided, that Synod had not found the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church guilty of a public sin and that, therefore, the protestants must withdraw their accusation before they could be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

            The die was cast!

            The wedge was driven in so deeply that it seemed impossible to extract it again.

            The consistory could not and surely would not follow the advice of Classis Grand Rapids East in this matter.  On this score there was no doubt.

            And the classical decisions of Aug. 20, 1924 were the first post-synodical step in the direction of the deposition of the consistory of Eastern Avenue.

Chapter 5 - The Synod of Kalamazoo: what it decided.

              We must now return to the work of the committee of pre-advice.

            On Tuesday, July 1, almost two weeks after synod first convened, it was ready with its report.

            The report consists of three main parts.

            In the first part the committee enumerates the various overtures and protests that had been filed with synod in connection with the common grace question.

            The second part represents the judgment of the committee regarding the legality of these various documents.

            The third part contains the advice of the committee regarding the contents of these documents and concerning the question itself.  This third part is again subdivided.  In the first subdivision the committee offers a list of the different points of doctrine involved in the case and submitted to the attention of the synod by the protests and overtures.  In the second subdivision the committee discards several of these points of doctrine, that, in its judgment, are more or less irrelevant; and singles out three doctrinal matters that are, in its opinion, of essential importance, viz., the general grace of God, the restraint of sin, and the ability of the natural man to do good. The third subdivision contains the advice of the committee with regard to these essential pints of doctrine, as well as its advice concerning the question of disciplining the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema.  The fourth subdivision deals with the problem of common grace in general, and advises synod not to formulate any dogma concerning that theory, but to urge all the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches to apply themselves diligently to the study of that problem.

            The whole is concluded by a testimony to the Churches in general.

            It is of importance to note that the  report cannot be found in full in the Acta of 1924.  True, in the Acta the report of the committee is introduced by the following: “The report of the committee of pre-advice concerning the common grace question is read by the reporter, Doctor C Bouma; it follows here in its entirety.” But this last statement is not true.  The following part, which ought to be inserted in the report on p. 134 of theActa, was left out: “If synod adopts the above-mentioned points, the question arises, whether synod ought to make it a case of a discipline immediately and bring the objections against the pastors Danhof and Hoeksema to the attention of the consistories concerned.  Your committee is of the opinion that this would not be the more desirable mode of procedure.  First, because the brethren, according to their own repeated declarations do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach the Reformed doctrine as contained in the Holy Scripture and the Confessions, and we will gladly assume that they erred in good faith.  Secondly, because it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths, even thought it be with an inclination to one-sidedness.

            “However, your committee advises that Synod through its president:

            “ (1) Seriously admonish the brethren with respect to their departures and demand of them the promise that in the future they will abide by the three points declared by the synod.

            “(2) Urge the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema that they refrain from making propaganda for their dissenting views regarding the three points, in the churches.

            “(3) Point out to the brethren, that if it should appear, either now or in the future, that they will not abide by the decisions of synod, the latter to its profound regret will have to make the case pending with the consistories.”

            The reader will notice that it was the intention of the committee to make a covenant with the two accused pastors, a covenant that consisted of a condition, a promise, and a penalty.  The condition was: abide by the three points.  The promise: we will not bring your case to your consistories.  The penalty: if you prove disobedient, we will make the case pending with the consistories and demand discipline.

            The careful reader will likewise observe that the committee intended to turn the ecclesiastical screws rather tight.  First, the synod was to exact from the brethren a promise that they would abide by the three points; then, presumably after the brethren had promised the foregoing, the screws were to be given an extra twist and the two brethren were to be urged to abide by the three points; (“urge the brethren not to make propaganda against the three points”); and, lastly, lest the two brethren should ever attempt to tamper with the synodical screws, they were to be threatened with discipline in case they would not abide by the three points.

            From this it is also evident that the committee would not trust the two pastors any too well, if they should have experienced as sudden doctrinal conversion on the floor of synod (as the committee, evidently, considered possible), and promised what was demanded of them!  For, after the two pastors would have promised to abide by the three pints, the committee intended that the synodical president should urge them to keep their promise; and after they had so promised and listened to an insulting admonition to keep their promise, the committee proposed that the two pastors should be threatened with ecclesiastical extinction should they fail to keep their promise.

            Surely, the committee of pre-advice had intended a sound synodical spanking for the two culprits!

            The motive for this strange suggestion of synodical discipline is alleged to be that the committee gladly assumes that the two brethren erred in good faith!

            As if that were a sound reason why heretics should not be treated by their consistories!

            But, perhaps the committee had honestly introspected itself, it would have discovered another reason, why it preferred a synodical spanking rather than the usual order of discipline.  For, was there not every reason top believe that the consistories of Kalamazoo I and of Eastern Avenue would ignore the synodical mandate to discipline their pastors in this case?

However this may be, the important point is that synod did not adopt this part of the committee’s advice.  Later it adopted a substitute motion from which this entire section was eliminated.  And by adopting this substitute motion the synod naturally rejected the advice of its committee.  This is the more important in view of the fact that the substitute motion was passed after both the accused pastors had plainly and emphatically declared (the Reverend Hoeksema during his one speech he was allowed to make), that they did not agree with the contents of the three points and would never abide by them.  Nor was the synodical decision altered when the Reverend H. Danhof delivered a written protest to synod, in which he expressed elaborately his objection against the declarations and decisions of synod regarding the three points, and plainly stated that he would employ every means at his command to oppose them.

            These plain facts prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that synod did not want discipline.

            They also most clearly and convincingly disprove the interpretation that later was given of this omission on the part of synod, as if synod had been motivated by leniency and longsuffering in this rejection of the advice of its committee to discipline, on the floor of the synod, the two pastors.  One ceases to be lenient with a culprit that is openly rebellious and refuses blankly to mend his ways!

            And, finally, they characterize the subsequent action against the two pastors by the Classes grand Rapids East and Grand Rapids West, as a most wanton assumption of authority and violation of the decisions of synod in this case.

            How the section containing the advice to admonish the two pastors was eliminated form the official report in the Acta must remain a mystery.

            Doctor H. Beets, the state clerk of synod, testified in the Circuit Court of Grand Rapids that, when he received the report the section had been “blue pencilled.”

            Synod did not as readily adopt the report of its advisory committee as might have been expected.

            The trouble started when the doctrinal propositions of the committee became the subject of discussion on the floor of the synod.  Especially the declaration of the committee concerning god’s grace on the ungodly reprobates, which in different form was finally adopted in the “First Point,” caused a good deal of wrangling.

            The committee, after quoting quite at random from the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema some passages in which they limit the grace of God to the elect only, advised synod to adopt the following statement: “These expressions your committee deems to be in conflict with Holy Scripture, since according to Scripture and the Confessions it is established that God is favorably inclined and gives grace to those whom Scripture designates as ungodly and unrighteous, which, of course, includes the reprobates.”

            This declaration, and especially the last part of it, received the lion’s share of the synod’s attention.  The other of the three “essential” points of doctrine were hardly considered.  No less than nine sessions of synod were devoted to the deliberation on the “First Point.”  To the synod it did not appear to be so obvious as to the committee that God is gracious to the reprobates, and that whenever the word of God speaks of the ungodly and the unrighteous the reprobates are necessarily included.  Even though the committee had referred to different passages from Scripture and from the Confessions to prove their point, synod did not seem to be prepared to adopt its declarations and advice.

            Several substitute motions were offered.

            One of these, presented on the evening of July 3, when synod was still in confusion on the matter under consideration, read as follows: “Synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confessions it is established, not only that God is filled with wrath against the reprobates because of their sin, but also that He is favorable inclined and bestows blessings upon those whom Scripture calls the ungodly and unrighteous, which, of course, includes the reprobates.

            No one seems to know that became of this motion, which, it must be acknowledge, is hardly an improvement upon the original of the committee.  In the general confusion it was probably forgotten that this motion was before the meeting.  It was never submitted to a vote.

            Mention deserves the substitute motion that was offered by the Reverend Manni.  It reads as follow: “Synod having duly considered the advice of the committee of pre-advice in the matter of the protests and objections against the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, decides to drop the common-grace case for the present, with the earnest admonition that thorough study be made of this matter, in the spirit of brotherly and mutual appreciation.

            “In order to execute this thorough study synod decides to appoint a large committee of which also the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema shall be members, which shall serve the next synod with more light on this very significant problem.

            “Finally, synod declares that the protestants (whose good intentions synod appreciates0 must be satisfied with this decision and abide by it, considering that synod is of the opinion that the time is not yet ripe for a more definite expression on the problem before which it was placed by the protestants.”

            This substitute motion is significant.

            First of all, because it was by far the truest reflection of the actual condition of the synod on the evening of July 3, after it had deliberated on the common grace question for several sessions, that was expressed.  the reader understands, that it is not the personal opinion of the Reverend Manni that is expressed in the motion, but his appraisal of the synodical state of mind.  From the wrangling and confusion on the floor of the synod he rightly judged that synod was not ready to formulate a sound opinion.  Neither the report of the committee, nor the synodical deliberations had sufficiently illuminated the synodical mind.

            And, secondly, the motion is significant, because it pointed out a better way.  Although in justice tot he Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema synod should have declared that the protestants had not succeeded to prove that the views of the two pastors were unreformed; and thought, for the rest, synod might have left the common grace question to the free discussion in the churches; yet, it must be admitted that he way the Reverend Manni pointed out was far preferable to the direction in which the committee advised synod to go.

            But synod was destined not to prefer the better way.

            The motion of the Reverend Manni was discussed until it was time to adjourn.

            Synod took a recess until July 7.

            We learn from the Act (p. 145) that when synod reconvened Doctor C. Bouma addressed the synod to explain the report of the committee.  This address occupied almost the entire afternoon session.  After this speech had been delivered the motion of the Reverend Manni was submitted to a vote and was rejected.

            Another substitute motion, that had, evidently, been prepared during the days of recess was now offered and after a brief discussion in the evening session of July 7 it was adopted.

            The final motion, that became the decision of the synod in the common grace question, consisted of four parts.  The first part contains three doctrinal declarations, the “Three Points”.  The second part expresses a judgment of the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.  The third part is a testimony to the churches in general.  And the last part is a statement concerning the theory of common grace.

            The “Three Points” read as follows:

                "1. Regarding the first point, touching the favorable attitude of God toward mankind in general and not only toward the elect, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession it is established, that besides the saving grace of God shown only to the elect unto eternal life, there is also a certain favor or grace of God which He shows to His creatures in general.  This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, II, 5 and II, IV, 8,9, where the general offer of the gospel is set forth; while it is also evident from the citations made from Reformed writers belonging to the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                "2. Regarding the second point touching the restraint of sin in the life of the individual man and of society in general, synod declares that according  to Scripture and the Confession there is such a restraint of sin. This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Netherland Confession Art. 13 and 36, which teach that God by a general operation of His Sprit, without renewing the heart, restrains the unbridled manifestation of sin, so that life in human society remains possible; while the citations from the Reformed authors of the most flourishing period of Reformed Theology proves, moreover, that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                "3. Regarding the third point, touching the performance of so-called civic righteousness by the unregenerated, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession, the unregenerate, though incapable of doing any spiritual good (Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 3) are able to perform such civic good.  This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 4, and from theNetherland Confession, Art. 36, which teach that God without renewing the heart, exercises sucyh an influence upon man that he is enabled to do civic good; while it is, moreover, evident from the citations made from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                For a discussion of these doctrinal declarations we refer the reader to the second part of this book.

                The second part of the synodical decisions contains an opinion of the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema and an admonition addressed to the two brethren and to the churches in general.

                The synodical judgment regarding the teachings of the two pastors read as follows: "synod expresses that several statements in the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema cannot very well be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confession teach us regarding the above mentioned three points.  Synod also judges that the pastors referred to, in their writings use some strong expressions, from which it is evident that in their presentation of the truth they do not sufficiently adhere to the way in which our confessions express themselves, especially Point I of the Utrecht Conclusions.

"On the other hand, synod declares that these ministers in their writings, according to their own repeated declarations, do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach and maintain our Reformed doctrine, the doctrine of Scripture and the Confessions; and it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness."

                This judgment of the synod is partly true.

                It speaks the truth when it testifies of the two pastors that they never intended anything else than the propagation and development of the Reformed truth.  And they also faithfully accomplished this purpose. Again, synod speaks the truth when it declares that it cannot be denied that the two pastors are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions.  The two pastors may well be grateful for this testimonial respecting their soundness in Reformed doctrine, especially in view of the fact that that it was an admission made by a synod that had tried them for heresy.  And, on the other hand, the Christian Reformed Churches may well be ashamed that they, nevertheless, cast out of their synagogue two pastors concerning whose doctrinal soundness they offered such a splendid and unsolicited testimony.

            They are witnesses against themselves that in 1924 they would not tolerate in their fellowship ministers that were fundamentally Reformed, but whom they nevertheless expelled form their midst because of their doctrine.

            The synodical judgment, however, is also partly untrue.

            It is false when it declares that several statements in the writings of the two pastors cannot very well be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confessions teach regarding the three points. It is, indeed, true that the statements referred to do not agree with the three points.  And we may add that no statements in their writings agree with these points.  But the reason for the disharmony must be sought in the fact that the “three Points” do not agree with the Scriptures and the confessions.  For exhaustive proof of this assertion we refer the reader to the second part of this volume.

            Finally, the synodical judgment is self-contradictory.

            Did not synod declare three fundamental and essential points of doctrine?  Do not the “Three Points” deal with such important truths as the grace of God and the depravity of the natural man?  How, then, can synod at the same time declare that the two pastors deviate from the line of doctrine indicated by the “Three Points”; and the dissenting pastors are, nevertheless, fundamentally Reformed in the doctrines formulated in the Confessions?  Surely, if the Confessions teach what the “Three Points” declare about these fundamental truths, and if the two pastors disagree with the “Three Points,” they cannot be fundamentally Reformed.  On the other hand, if the two pastors are sound in the fundamental doctrines as formulated in the Confessions, it follows that they cannot be in conflict with the teaching of the Confessions regarding the “Three Points.”  In the latter case the “Three Points” must be regarded as themselves in conflict with the fundamental doctrines of the confessions and synod condemns its own declarations.

Synod also adopted the following admonitions:

“With a view to the deviating sentiments of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema regarding the above mentioned three points, and with a view to the controversy that arose in our Church regarding the doctrine of Common or General Grace, synod admonishes the two brethren to abide in their teaching and writing by the standpoint of our Confession regarding the three points that were discussed, and at the same time she admonishes the brethren and the Churches in general to refrain from all onesidedness in the presentation of the truth, and to express themselves carefully and with sobriety and modesty.

“On the other hand, in as far as the pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema in their writings warn against worldly-mindedness, synod judges that there is, indeed, reason for such warning with a view to a possible misuse of the doctrine of Common Grace and, therefore, synod considers it its calling to send the following TESTIMONY to the churches.” (Here follows the testimony).

Whatever may have been the motive of synod in adopting these decisions, they certainly are unworthy of an ecclesiastical gathering.

It is and was not the calling of the synod to admonish, but to express a definite opinion and give advice in very concrete matters of doctrine and discipline.  In the Danhof-Hoeksema case there was a definite matter of doctrine and discipline before synod.  It was the task of that body to render a definite verdict with respect to the soundness or unsoundness of the teachings of the two pastors involved.  If synod found upon thorough investigation that the views of the accused pastors were in conflict with the Reformed Confessions, it was nothing but its plain duty to express this in unambiguous language.  And having rendered this verdict it would have been synod’s calling to inform the consistories of Kalamazoo I and Eastern Avenue of its decision in the matter and to advise these bodies to discipline their pastors.  On the other hand, if upon examination they found no guilt in the two pastors, if they discovered that the accused were fundamentally Reformed, they should have exonerated them in language that could leave no doubt.  Instead, after days of wrangling about the report of the committee it appears, that a most miserable compromise was attempted.  It is not improbable that those members of synod who were determined to effect the expulsion of the two pastors from the Church, began to realize that they would never gain an extreme decision in their favor; and fearful lest the two pastors should be exonerated, they consented to the compromise.

However this may be, the fact is that synod acted like the Sanhedrin in the case of Peter and John; they decided to admonish the brethren and let them go!

In one other respect the act of synod is comparable to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem in respect to Peter and John.

            For, just as the Jewish tribunal was well aware of the fact that the apostles would not heed their admonitions nor be terrified by their threats, so that the Synod of Kalamazoo was fully conscious that the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema would not alter their preaching and writing.  They had emphatically declared themselves on the “Three Points” before the whole synod.  They had revealed their attitude toward the synodical decisions in no ambiguous language.  And even after synod had decided to admonish the brethren to abide by the “Three Points,” the Reverend H. Danhof filed a protest against the decisions of synod, in which he declared that he would do all that was in his power to oppose the doctrine of the synodical declarations.  Yet, synod was satisfied with a mere admonition of the brethren!

And from one point of view synod’s action was more cowardly than that of the Jewish supreme court.

                The latter, at least, called the two apostles before them and actually did administer the admonition.  But synod did not even carry out its decision in any form, neither by the spoken word through its president, nor by letter through the clerk.  The Reverend Hoeksema was no longer present when synod took its decision in this matter, nor was he ever summoned to receive an admonition, nor was he officially informed of the synodical decisions.  Nor was the admonition administered to the Reverend Danhof, who was delegate and probably voted against the motion that he should be admonished!

                As to the “Testimony” synod decided to send to the churches, it read as follows:

              “Now synod expressed itself on three points that were at stake in the denial of Common Grace and thereby condemned the entire disregard for this doctrine, she feels constrained at the same time to warn our Churches and especially our leaders earnestly against all one-sided emphasis on and misuse of the doctrine of Common Grace.  It cannot be denied that there exists a real danger in this respect.  When Doctor Kuyper wrote his monumental work on this subject he revealed that he was not unconscious of the danger that some would be seduced by it to lose themselves in the world.  And even now history shows that this danger is more than imaginary.  And also Doctor Bavinck reminded us of this danger in his Dogmatics.

                “When we consider the direction in which the spirit of the time develops round about us, it cannot be denied that our present danger lies more in the direction of worldly-mindedness than of false seclusion.  Liberal theology of the present time really obliterates the distinction between the Church and the world.  It is more and more emphasized by many that the great significance of the Church lies in her influence upon social life.  The consciousness of a spiritual-ethical antithesis becomes increasingly vague in the minds of many to make room for an indefinite notion of a general brotherhood.  The preaching of the Word concerns itself largely with the periphery of life and does not penetrate into its spiritual center.  The doctrine of particular grace in Christ is more and more pushed to the background.  There is a strong tendency to bring theology into harmony with a science that stands in the service of infidelity.  Through the agency of the press and various inventions and discoveries, which as such are,--undoubtedly, to be regarded as good gifts of God, the sinful world is to a great extent carried into our Christian homes.

“Because of all these and similar influences, exerted upon us from every side it is peremptorily necessary that the Church keep watch over the fundamentals; and that, though she also maintains the above mentioned three points, she vindicates the spiritual-ethical antithesis tooth and nail.  May she never permit her preaching to degenerate into mere social treatises or literary productions.  Let her be vigilant that Christ and He crucified and risen always remain the heart of the preaching.  Constantly she must maintain the principle that the people of God are a peculiar people, living from their proper root, the root of faith.  With holy zeal she must constantly send forth the call to our people, especially to our youth: ‘And be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable will and perfect will of God.’ With the blessing of the Lord this will keep our churches form worldly-mindedness, that extinguishes the flame of spiritual ardor and deprives the Church of her power and beauty.

                What shall we say about this testimony?

                It proves clearly how conscious the synod was of the conflict between the so-called doctrine of Common Grace and the maintenance of the spiritual ethical antithesis of which this testimony speaks.  Nor only is this consciousness evident from the very fact that she deemed it necessary to accompany the declaration of the three points by this Testimony, but she also plainly expresses this consciousness of the existing conflict in the words: “and that, though she also maintains the above mentioned three points, she vindicates the spiritual-ethical antithesis tooth and nail.”  And in this respect the synod was right.  She is sadly mistaken, however, when she labors under the impression that a pious testimony will prevent the influence of a false doctrine.  The false doctrine is the theory of common grace, even in as far as it is officially adopted in the three points.  The inevitable result of that doctrine is obliteration of the distinction between the Church and the world, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, righteousness and unrighteousness.  And the practical fruit is worldliness.

                The “Testimony” never was sent to the churches!

                Outside of those that were present at the synod at the time this “Testimony” was read, and those that received or purchase an Acta of 1924, no one ever heard of it.

                Finally, with respect to the common grace question in general, synod adopted the following resolution.

                “In connection with the overtures that would urge synod to express itself on the doctrine of common grace as such, or to appoint a committee to study the matter, synod decides as follows:

                a. At the present to formulate no statement relative to the standpoint of the Church regarding the doctrine of general or common grace in every detail and all its implications.  Such a statement would presuppose that this doctrine had already been thoroughly considered and developed in all its details, which certainly is least of all the case.  Preparatory study, necessary to this purpose, is almost entirely wanting as yet.  Consequently, there is in the Reformed Churches as yet no consensus of opinion at all in this case.

                “b. Neither to appoint a committee to devote itself to the study of this matter, in order to reach the formulation of a dogma concerning this matter, which eventually may be received as part of the Confessions (Overture, Muskegon).

                “(1) Because dogmas are not made but are born out of the conflict of opinions, and, therefore, it is desirable that the establishment of a certain dogma be preceded by a lengthy exchange of opinions.  Participation in such a discussion must be as general as possible and must not be limited to a single group of churches.

                “(2) Because a certain truth must live clearly in the consciousness of the Church in general, or in the consciousness of a particular group of churches, before the Church is able to profess such a truth in her Confession.  It cannot be said, that this indispensable condition exists at the present or will exist after two or four years.

                “c. But to urge the leaders of our people, both ministers and professors, to make further study of the doctrine of common grace; that they give themselves account carefully of the problems that present themselves in connection with this matter, in sermons, lectures and publications.  It is very desirable that not a single individual or a small number of persons accomplish this task, but that many take part in it.  Grounds:

                “(1) This will be the most naturally conducive to a fruitful discussion of the question of Common Grace, and such an exchange of thoughts is the indispensable condition for the development of this truth.

                “(2) It will be instrumental to concentrate the attention of our people upon this doctrine, will serve to elucidate their conception of it and to cause them to feel its significance, so that they become increasingly conscious of this part of the contents of their faith.

                “(3) It will, undoubtedly, in the course of a few years, lead to a consensus of opinion in this matter, and thus it will gradually prepare the way in our churches for a united confession concerning Common Grace.”

                One who carefully compares this final resolution of synod with the preceding decisions of that body will find it difficult to discover the jewel of consistency.

                On the other hand, synod did not hesitate, in the midst of considerable confusion and difference of opinion to coin three new dogmas that are directly in conflict with the Reformed trend of thinking; on the other hand, it is rather belatedly mindful of the sound rule that “dogmas are not made, but are born out of the conflict of opinions, and, therefore, it is desirable that the establishment of a certain dogma be preceded by a lengthy exchange of opinions.”

                In the preceding decisions synod adopted the main fundamental tenets of the theory of common grace; in this last resolution it does not hesitate to declare that even all preparatory study, necessary for the formulation of a dogma of common grace is practically wanting.

                No doubt, this last resolution is by far the truest of all synod’s decisions.  If synod only had made this last declaration its starting point and proceeded accordingly, all would have been well.

                For the rest, it cannot escape the attention of the reader that this last resolution is somewhat derogatory of the work of others and smacks of conceit.  Preparatory study is almost entirely wanting with regard to the question of common grace!  But what, then, of the “monumental” work De Gemeene Gratie by Doctor A. Kuyper, Sr?  The synod of 1924, evidently, set this work aside as of no or little account, even as a preparatory study!

                And, as far as the earnest exhortation to the ministers and leaders of the churches is concerned to make a careful study of he question of common grace, one cannot fail to trace a strain of hypocrisy here.

                Forsooth!  Had not synod by its decisions in the common grace case killed all incentive to study this question, and, in fact, to study any question at all?  Were there in the Christian Reformed Churches two men that had earnestly begun to study the question like the two pastors that had just been condemned by synod because of their efforts?  Blindly the synod had condemned the fruit of their labors, without giving due consideration to what they had produced and published; without even considering the possibility that their view of the matter might be correct!  And after in this fashion having condemned the two pastors and having killed all incentive to study, synod brazenly adds that it is very desirous that as many as possible shall make study of the matter!

                Does it not call to one’ imagination the picture of the hangman, holding wide the noose, with two victims lying prostrate in the shade of the gallows, asking the question: Who likes to try next?

                Beside, the exhortation to study this question, as might be expected, proved rather futile.

                The request is far too general.  Everybody’s work is nobody’s work.  And, at the time of this writing, eleven years after the synodical exhortation was broadcast, no one responded, not even the broadcasters themselves!

                Nor is there any room left to study the question of common grace after the synod of 1924 raised  to dogmas the three main issues involved in the problem.  Synod put all its ministers and leaders in a strait-jacket, then addressed them and said: now, get a move on you, brethren!

                No, as far as the Christian Reformed churches are concerned, the matter is dead.

                There is no hope that the exhortation will ever bear positive fruit.

                  In the preceding chapter we characterized the Synod of Kalamazoo as a weak synod, ill prepared to deal with fundamental questions of doctrine.

                Our narrative of its transactions and decisions in the common grace case justified, we trust, our characterization.

                The synod of 1924 solved no problems.

                It did not advance the cause of the truth.

                But it did seriously tamper with the Reformed Confessions in its desperate attempt to make them teach the false doctrine of common grace.

                And it caused a good deal of trouble subsequently.

                It inserted the wedge, which the two Grand Rapids Classis only had to hammer in more deeply to cause a split in the Christian Reformed Churches.

                As the rest of this History will set forth.

Chapter 4 - The Synod of Kalamazoo: how it worked.

            Fifty miles due south of Grand Rapids is situated the considerably smaller but thrifty city of Kalamazoo.

            It is more of a railroad center than the Furniture City.

            It has over one hundred ninety manufacturing plants.

            And although it is advisable to take it with a grain of salt when in our country something is declared to be the largest in the world, Kalamazoo is said to be the largest celery market in that unlimited sense of the word.

            A goodly element of its population is of Dutch descent.

            In Kalamazoo there were, at the time of which we are writing, three Christian Reformed Churches, simply designated as the “First”, the “Second”, and the “Third” Christian Reformed Church.

            Of the First Christian Reformed Church the Reverend H. Danhof was pastor at the time when the Synod of Kalamazoo was held.

            And as the first classis that deliberated upon the question of “Common Grace” was held in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, of which the Reverend H. Hoeksema was pastor at that time, so the Synod that “settled” that question held its session in the first Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich.

            It convened on June 18, 1924.

            A synod, according to Reformed Church polity, may be defined as the broadest representative gathering of churches of the same faith that have voluntarily entered into a federative union, for the purpose of manifesting and realizing as much as possible the essential unity of believers as members of the body of Christ.

            Even as a classis cannot properly be called a higher judicatory than the consistory of a local church, so a synod may never be defined as the highest judicatory.  It is no supreme ecclesiastical court.  The different churches, that voluntarily enter into denominational union and are represented by the synod, acknowledge no other judicatory power than that which is lodged in the consistory.  The power of a synod is always derivative and advisory.  It may not rule over the local congregations.  It does not appoint or install office-bearers.  Neither does it have the power to depose them.  If a synod should be called to deliberate upon the question of the deposition of a minister of the Word of God and should reach the conclusion that a certain pastor is worthy of deposition, it can advise the consistory concerned of its conclusion and decision in the matter, but it would not have the power to exercise discipline and to execute the deposition in the local congregation.  Such an act of discipline would have to be left to the consistory of the local church of which the minister is pastor.

            And if the local consistory should prove to be recalcitrant and refuse to act in accordance with the advice of synod, the latter could not exercise discipline either over the pastor or over the rebellious consistory to depose them from their respective offices in the congregation they serve.

            Its sole power in such a case would be to declare that such a consistory stands separated from that particular union of churches that is represented by the synod.

            A synod of the Christian Reformed Churches is composed of six delegates from each classis.

            In 1924, the entire Christian Reformed denomination was divided into thirteen classical districts, so that the synod numbered seventy-eight members.

            It is customary to invite the presence of the Theological Faculty at all synodical meetings, and to them is given the right of advisory vote in all matters that appear on the synodical agendum.

            With reference to the question of common grace, one of the most important matters on the program of the synod of 1924, it cannot be said that the Synod of Kalamazoo was “packed”.

            It happens sometimes that synods are “packed”.

            The nature of the decisions to be taken by a synod naturally depends on the views and attitude of the majority of the delegates that constitute it.  By a “packed” synod is meant a synod that is purposely and consciously constituted of delegates that, in certain important items on the synodical program, are known to be of determined convictions and to have made up their minds before any discussion on such matters.  A packed synod, therefore, is not unbiased but prejudiced.

            It can hardly be said that the delegates present at the synod of 1924 were unfavorably prejudiced in the Danhof-Hoeksema case.

            The long and often bitter wrangling that ensued on the floor of the synod about the question of Common Grace proves the very opposite.  The delegates were not of one mind.  There were, indeed, those who were known as determined defenders of the common grace theory, who were friends of Doctor Janssen and assumed a hostile attitude toward the two accused pastors.  Even the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen was one of the delegates from Classis Illinois.  There were others, that had always simulated friendship toward the two pastors and doctrinal kinship with them, that would prove to be their opponents.  But over against this stands the fact, that also the Reverend H. Danhof had been delegated and that there were those who made an honest attempt to “save” the brethren, although they were too weak and finally succumbed.  And, finally, as is always the case, there were a number of delegates that acted as mere voters without a proper understanding of the question at issue, and were ready to go along with the majority as easily as straws with the wind.  A packed synod, therefore, it could not be called.

            But it certainly was a weak synod.

            Ill-prepared the synod was to deal with questions of important points of doctrine.  The common grace question it did not understand.  Its implications the synod did not discern.  This may justly be said even of those that played a leading role in the opposition against the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema.  For, not only was this evident at the time from the wrangling and discord manifest in the discussions about this question, but it is also abundantly proven by subsequent history.  One may well be amazed at the foolhardiness of synod, when it recklessly adopted three doctrinal declarations of fundamental importance at a time when it was clearly evident that it was not at all prepared for such action.

            And as the years go by and the smoke of strife and contention that beclouded the minds of the leaders of the opposition in 1924 rises, it will have to become increasingly clear, that the common-grace decision reached by the Synod of Kalamazoo was a gigantic mistake.

            God’s cause is not furthered by a spirit of discord and confusion!

            Usually, to expedite matters and to conduce to orderly procedure, the synod appoints committees of pre-advice

            Such committees are very influential and are largely responsible for the direction of the discussions on the floor of the synod and even for the final decisions of that largest gathering of the churches.  Into their hands is delivered all the material that pertains to a certain matter.  They convene separately to deliberate upon that material, arrange it, pass upon its legality and advise synod as to what material is acceptable; they compose a report and draw conclusions; and, finally, they offer definite points of advice to synod in regard to decisions that ought to be taken in the matters under consideration.

            The Committee appointed by the Synod of Kalamazoo in the common grace case consisted of the following delegates: Doctor Y. P. De Jong, Doctor C. Bouma, Reverend E. F. J. Van Halsema, Reverend A Bliek, Reverend T. Vander Ark; and Elders S. Dekker, J. Verbrugge, J. T. Brandsma.  Professor L. Berkhof was added to this committee as advisory member.

            The appointment of the latter may be considered somewhat abnormal.  The subject matter upon which the committee was to deliberate and give advice to synod was strictly of a dogmatical nature.  At that time not Professor L. Berkhof, but Professor F.M. Ten Hoor was the incumbent of the chair of dogmatic Theology at the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Churches.  Under normal circumstances it would have been proper that the latter were added to the pre-advisory committee on the common grace question.  The reason why, nevertheless, this appointment fell to Professor Berkhof, was, probably, that Professor Ten Hoor was somewhat doubtful on the question to be considered.  On the floor of the synod he made the remark, that he had studied the problem for forty years, that he felt quite sure that there was such a thing as common grace, but he did not know what it was!

            A considerable mass of material was delivered to the committee for its consideration.

From Classis Grand Rapids East there were: its own overture in the matter, elicited from the pretended overture from the consistory of Kellogsville, and the various protests, which had been referred back to the consistory of Eastern Avenue Church by the classis, but which the protestants had delivered to the synod by way of appeal; this also included the protest of the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen, who at the same time personally offered the same protest directly to synod according to the advice of Classis Grand Rapids West.  Besides, there were the following protests: 1. From Kalamazoo II against the decision of Classis West in re the Van Baalen protest; 2. From Kalamazoo II against the calling of a special meeting of Classis West on June 10, 1924: 3. Idem from the consistory of the Lamont Christian Reformed Church; 4. Idem from the consistory of Kalamazoo I; 5. Protest from Kalamazoo I against the decision of Classis West in re the Van Baalen protest: 6. Protest by the Reverend H. Hoeksema against the overture from Classis Grand Rapids East.  And lastly, there were some overtures regarding the question of common grace from the following classes: Hackensack, Hudson, Sioux Center, and Muskegon.

            For several days the committee held its sessions.

            And it must be recorded here that its members evidently considered themselves perfectly self-sufficient, and well capable of handling the situation and formulating an opinion, without even granting a hearing to the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, whose views they were discussing, concerning whom they formed a judgment.  The committee never asked the two brethren involved to appear before them, to inquire of them about their views or to discuss the matter with them.  They did not summon them to appear as witnesses in their own case!

            This may be regarded an exceptionally strange method of procedure on the part of the committee.

            If you peruse the Acta of different synods you will discover that in similar cases the committee of pre-advice always met with the person involved in the case under consideration.

The committee of pre-advice on the Bultema-case in 1918 reported to synod: “Your committee deemed it advisable, before it formed its conclusions and advice to synod, to invite the Rev. Bultema to our meeting.  the purpose of the committee was to remove all possible misunderstanding, or in case the Reverend B would recant to proceed no further … A long time the committee met with the Reverend Bultema … and it decided to inform the synod as follows: (1) Although the Reverend Bultema insisted that he, according to this own conviction, is not in conflict with the Confession of our Churches, yet he did not succeed to make evident to your committee the harmony between his standpoint as presented in “Maranatha” and our Confession. (2) The Rev. Bultema persistently refused to retract the statements in his book as quoted above.” (Acta 1918, pp. 79,80).

            Here was a case much similar, from a formal viewpoint, to the common grace case in 1924.  The committee of pre-advice, however, invited the Reverend Bultema, met with him a long time, gave him an opportunity to defend his views, and asked him whether he would not recant.

            In 1920 a committee of  pre-advice was appointed in the well-known Janssen-case.  In the Acta of 1920, p. 80, one reads: “We gave Dr. Janssen a personal hearing once and again.  We also gave the other professors an opportunity to express their sentiments to the committee.”

            In 1922, another committee of pre-advice served in the Janssen-case.  In the Acta, p. 88, we read: “That we (the committee) ask Dr. Janssen to appear on the meeting of the committee, and that we offer him the opportunity to replete with his own notes the material from the Student Notes and Individual Notes, as quoted in the Majority and Minority-reports, or to correct these notes if he has any objections to them”

            But the committee on the Danhof-Hoeksema case never invited the accused brethren to appear before them; never gave them an opportunity to defend themselves; never asked them a single question!

            It is difficult, indeed, to justify this serious omission on the part of the committee.  Regard for the truth certainly does not shun discussion.  Love does not avoid the brethren.

            But whatever may have motivated the committee in this strange mode of procedure, the fact is that they violated on of the most fundamental principles of justice, when they condemned the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema without having heard them or given them an opportunity for self-defense.

            The injustice, however, was aggravated when the synod itself followed the example of the committee with respect to the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  The Reverend H. Danhof was himself a delegate and could not very well be denied the right to defend his case.  But with regard to the Reverend Hoeksema it was quite a different matter.  He was not a delegate to synod.  Common decency and justice would have prompted synod, therefore, to summon him, to invite him to its meetings, to examine him if necessary, to offer him an opportunity to defend his views.

            Synod, however, was utterly negligent in this respect.

            The Acta of 1924 fail to tell the story of this negligence, which is, nevertheless, too important to be omitted here.  They merely state: “Reverend H. Hoeksema asks permission to speak in order to shed light on his case.  Decided to give him full opportunity to do this in the evening session, which is to begin at half past seven.” p. 139.  And later: “The Reverend H. Hoeksema delivers an address of an hour and a half long, in which he attempts to explain his standpoint to synod.” p. 141.

            The complete story in this matter, however, must leave quite a different impression than these isolated statements in the Acta.

            For, the fact is, that the synod never served a summons on the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  It never invited him to attend its meetings.  He was never asked by synod to give account of his views.  Synod never willingly offered him the right to speak in his own case.  It proceeded to treat him as if he had absolutely nothing to do with it, in spite of the fact that he was present in the auditorium where synod held its sessions, in plain view of the brethren.

            The fact is, that when the Reverend H. Hoeksema noticed that synod evidently purposed to ignore him, though they were deliberating upon his case and in his presence, he broke the rules of order and arose to ask for the floor as often as three times.  He first did so, when the synod was deliberating upon his protest against the legality of the overture from Classis East, an extract from the pretended overture of the consistory of the Kellogsville church.  Synod was about to accept the advice of its committee, to declare the overture legal and the protest against it as without grounds, when the Reverend Hoeksema arose in the rear of the auditorium and asked for the privilege to speak a word in behalf of his own protest.  He was refused this privilege, however, on the ground that he had nothing to do with the particular matter under discussion!  This left at least the impression that synod would be more liberal when matters were discussed in which the Reverend Hoeksema would be vitally concerned.  Yet, the discussion on the pre-advisory report continued, the proposed “Three Points,” in which the above named pastor certainly was concerned, were the subject of the synod’s deliberation, but never did the synod suggest that it was inclined to consider the Reverend Hoeksema at all.  It continued to treat his case as if he were not concerned whatsoever.  Then the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church broke the rules once more, arose in the audience and asked for the floor in order that he might present his own views in connection with the proposed “Three Points”.  He requested that the evening session should be given him and that his time should not be limited.  To induce the synod to grant his request he foolishly promised that he would not ask to speak again.  This promise was foolish on his part, for he certainly had a right to an unlimited opportunity to speak in his own case, as any defendant has.  But it was prompted by the well-founded fear that synod did not intend to give him such opportunity at all.   And the synod certainly had no right to accept this condition, still less to make use of it.  This request was granted, and at the evening session before a packed auditorium and deeply interested audience, the pastor expounded his views before synod.  However, when in a later session synod was hopelessly confused about the contents of the “First Point” (the contents of which we discuss in the Second Part of this volume), the pastor of Eastern Avenue could not refrain from asking the liberty to speak once more.  Synod refused, giving as the ground of their refusal, that the Reverend Hoeksema had promised not to ask for the floor a second time!

            The pastor then left the meeting and never appeared again.

            An illustration of grosser injustice could hardly be conceived.

            A defendant certainly must have full opportunity to defend himself, either personally or by counsel, before the court that tries him.

            And such opportunity other synods had always offered in the past to others that were accused of heresy and whose cases were tried by the largest representative body of the churches.

            Yet, the Reverend Hoeksema was never invited to speak in his own behalf, was never asked a question, was refused the floor twice, and the one opportunity granted him in no wise testifies of the courtesy and sense of justice on the part of the synod, but must be attributed to the importunity of the pastor that was compelled to break the rules of order in order to obtain the privilege.

            It is, then, not too strong a statement to assert that a worldly court would not treat a defendant as the broadest ecclesiastical court of the Christian Reformed Churches treated the Reverend H. Hoeksema in 1924.

            In retrospect, now at the time of this historical review after more than eleven years have rolled by since the synod of 1924, one cannot help by musing on the question what would have happened had the spirit that prevailed at synod been different.

            We know not.

            What would have been the course of events if synod had not listened to those that were determined to oust the two pastors and to coin the theory of common grace into a confessional dogma of the first importance; if it had been actuated by a pure desire to further the cause of the truth and to seek the spiritual well-being of the churches it represented; and if its decisions had been motivated by the spirit of brotherly love?

            We can only conjecture.

            To us it appears impossible that synod in that case would have adopted the “Three Points.”

            It might have acknowledged that it was dealing with an extra-confessional question; that it was not ready to formulate any definite doctrinal declarations; that the development of the question would have to be left, for some time to come, to the free interchange of ideas in the churches; that there was no cause for action against the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema, seeing that their views were not in conflict with the Reformed Confessions; and that, therefore, the protestants and appellants would have to cease agitating and refrain from further heresy-hunting.

            One can readily see that such decisions would have given a direction to subsequent history considerably different from the actual course after 1924.  And synod would not have laid the basis for the expulsion from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Churches of ministers concerning whom it was compelled to testify “that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as formulated by the Confessions.”

            But, however this may be, the actual course of events is always and was also in this case the unfolding of God’s good pleasure.

            And He causes all things, not excluding the rashness of synodical decisions, to work for the good of His cause.

            And, though deploring the necessity of separation and division in the Church of Christ in the world, the Protestant Reformed Churches, rather than wistfully glancing back at what might have been in the past, may well rest in God’s sovereign good pleasure, and stretch themselves to what lieth before!

Chapter 3 - Classical wranglings, May 1924.

As the reader knows, a classis is a broader gathering of neighboring churches of the same faith, that have voluntarily entered into a federative union for the purpose of realizing and manifesting as much as possible the essential union of the Body of Christ and to co-operate in such matters as pertain to the churches thus united in general.

            Not infrequently one meets with the notion that such a classis assumes the character of a higher judiciary, serves as a kind of superior court with relation to the local consistories.

            Even classical gatherings themselves sometimes labored on that assumption and acted accordingly.

            This, however, is a very serious mistake.

            Pure Reformed Church polity knows of no lower and higher judiciary bodies.  It acknowledges the consistory as the sole ruling power over the local congregation.  A classis possesses no power over the local churches whatsoever.  Whatever power it possesses is derivative, secondary, limited, advisory.

            Two of such classes are constituted by the Christian Reformed Churches of Grand Rapids and vicinity.  They are distinguished as Classis Grand Rapids East and Classis Grand Rapids West.  Under the former the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church resorted; with the latter the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo was united.

            It happened that Classis Grand Rapids East was destined to be the first to consider the case against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, although naturally it could deliberate on it only in as far as the latter was connected with it.

            On the twenty-first day of May, 1924, it convened in the auditorium of the Eastern Avenue Church, and received the various protests to which the reader’s attention was called in the previous chapter.

            The first protest received and considered by classis was the petition of the Reverend M. M. Schans, pretending to be an overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church of Kellogsville, Mich. Regarding this “petition” the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had filed a protest with classis, in which it begged that gathering not to accept the pretended overture.  The consistory argued that although the “overture” alleged to be a mere petition, it virtually and really was a protest against the teachings of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And it had always been and still was an inviolable rule that no protest could be accepted by classis unless the party against whom it was directed had received a copy of such protest.  And this the Reverend Schans had failed to observe.  He never had taken the Reverend Hoeksema into consideration at all, but had directly applied to classis.  In the second place the consistory called the attention of the classis to the fact that this so-called petition of the Reverend Schans had been distributed among all the consistories belonging to the classis even before this body had received it and had been given an opportunity to decide on its legality.  And it had always been a standing rule that, unless a protest is declared acceptable by classis, it is returned to the protestant without being read and made public to the members of the classis.  In the third place the consistory made plain that the classis was not the proper body to receive and consider a protest against the pastor of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  If the Reverend Schans or even the consistory of Kellogsville felt constrained to protest against the doctrine of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, such protest should properly have been filed with his consistory who had jurisdiction over the pastor.  And not until it should have appeared that the consistory were unwilling or incapable to deal with the matter, could the protestant have appealed to classis.

            Classis, however, did not pay the slightest attention tot he plea of the consistory of Eastern Avenue.  It made no attempt to contradict the clear argument presented, nor did it furnish the consistory with an answer in any form.  It rather chose to ignore completely the consistory’s presentation of the matter and passed a motion that the “overture” of Kellogsville was legally before classis.

            The pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, acting upon a premonition that the Classis would receive as legal the protest by the Reverend Schans, however irregular such procedure might be, had prepared himself against such an event.  He had with him a written answer to the protest under consideration and asked and was given leave to read it before the classical gathering.  This answer consisted of two parts.  The first part dealt with the overture from Kellogsville from a church-political aspect, the second treated its doctrinal contents and weighed its alleged objections against the pastor’s teaching.

            In the first part the pastor argued as the consistory had done, that the overture pretended, indeed, to be a mere petition requesting classis to bring a certain doctrinal matter to the attention of synod, but that it virtually was a protest and indictment against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, as well as against the Reverend H. Danhof of Kalamazoo.  Yet, in violation of every rule pertaining to such matters, the overture had been delivered directly to classis without consideration of the pastor or of his consistory.  The pastor, therefore, protested against the action of classis whereby it had approved of this illegal and unbrotherly procedure of the Reverend Schans and received the protest.  Besides, the pastor called the attention of the gathering to the fact, that the overture also intended to ignore classis, as far as the treatment of its contents was concerned, for it requested classis merely to adopt its contents as an overture to synod, in order that the broadest gathering of the churches might act upon the matter.  Clearly it was the intention of the overture to avoid all discussion of the matter on the floor of the classis and leave all the deliberation to Synod.  Such a procedure would relieve the protestant of the rather unpleasant task of meeting the pastor he accused face to face in an open discussion of the indictments contained in the protest.  Surely, it must be evident to classis, that if the Reverend Schans entertained serious doubts regarding the orthodoxy of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, and, therefore, considered it necessary that the latter be subjected to an examination, the proper way to proceed would have been that he apply first of all to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church to conduct such an examination; thereupon, if the consistory should have failed to satisfy the petitioner, he could have appealed to classis; and only after also the classis had failed to allay the serious doubts of the Reverend Schans, he could petition synod to institute such an examination.  Such would have been the regular and orderly way of procedure as is also suggested by the Formula of Subscription in the following words: “And further, if at any time the consistory, classis or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism or the explanation of the National Synod, we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition.”

            The Reverend Schans, however, would rather ignore the consistory that had sole jurisdiction over the pastor, pass by the classis and directly request synod to conduct the proposed examination.  To such irregular procedure the pastor declared himself to be opposed and he vigorously protested against it.  The pastor further called the attention of the classis to the fact that it was too late to bring the matter to the synod.  The rule is that all matters for synod must be filed with the stated clerk before the first of May of the synodical year.  The wisdom and propriety of this rule is obvious, for violation of it would deprive any defendant of the opportunity to file a protest against any action the classis might take against him.  And this rule would certainly be violated if the classis should act favorably upon the request of the Reverend Schans.  The pastor also once more vigorously protested against the high-handed method of circulating a protest through the classis by the stated clerk, before it had been declared legal and acceptable by the classis itself.  And in conclusion of this part of his answer he warned the classis that neither he nor his consistory would submit to such a hierarchical and tyrannical yoke, should classis attempt to put it on their necks.

            In the second part of his reply to the “overture of Kellogsville” the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church argued that the Reverend Schans did not have sufficient reasons for his pretended anxiety and doubt regarding the views and teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  The Formula of Subscription clearly states that an office-bearer must have given occasion seriously to doubt his doctrinal soundness, before one can file a request that he be examined by consistory, classis or synod.  Now, the Reverend Schans petitioned classis to send an overture to synod requesting that the pastor of Eastern Avenue be examined on some fundamental points of doctrine.  But what reasons did the Reverend Schans adduce in his petition why the orthodoxy of his colleague might justly be doubted?  It appears from his petition that personally he had none.  In the “overture” he urges that there is unrest in the churches because of the common grace controversy.  He also speaks of it that the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church had been openly accused of unreformed tendencies.  But the Reverend Schans failed to show in what respect the Reverend Hoeksema had given him personally any occasion to doubt the soundness of his doctrine and preaching.  What reason could he possibly have to doubt that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church preached the gospel in a truly reformed and Biblical sense?  The objector had never heard the Reverend Hoeksema preach.  Nor did he ever make any inquiry, in the proper way, concerning his preaching.  On the contrary, he well knew that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church always had approved their pastor’s preaching.  Evidently, if the Reverend Schans entertained doubts on this score he had listened to gossip.  And why should he doubt the Reverend Hoeksema’s soundness with respect to the doctrine of predestination?  From the “overture” it is evident that the author of it is troubled because he fears that his colleague over-emphasized these truths.  But he produces no evidence at all that he has any reasonable ground for this fear.  Further, he would have the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church examined on the questions of the restraint of sin and civic righteousness.  But this request proceeds on the false assumption that the Scriptures and the Confessions actually teach these doctrines.  Moreover, when the protestant raises the question of the responsibility of man and is, apparently, worried that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church denies this truth, he does so without good reason, for the pastor always openly taught that man is responsible for his own acts before God.  And when, finally, the Reverend Schans refers to the providence of God and His rule over all things, it is quite uncertain to what heresy on the part of the Reverend Hoeksema he refers and it may justly be regarded as doubtful whether on this point he understands himself.

            Thus did the suspected pastor reply to the alleged overture.

            He closed by calling the attention of the classis to the fact that a careful scrutiny of the petition by the Rev. Schans might well raise serious doubts as to whether the latter were sound in doctrine and had ever understood Reformed truth.

            A substitute motion--substitute for what was surely illegally before the classis and, therefore, itself illegal--was presented by Doctor H. H. Meeter.  It differed from the original “overture” in that it eliminate the request for the personal examination by the synod of the Reverends H. Hoeksema and H. Danhof and proposed to request that largest gathering of the churches merely to institute an inquisition into the writings of the two pastors.

            The reader must remember that, without a doubt, the majority of the delegates present at that particular gathering of classis Grand Rapids East, had never taken cognizance of the contents of these writings, still less carefully examined them.

            Without a thorough and open discussion of the doctrinal points at issue they certainly would not be able intelligently to vote on either the original overture or the substitute motion.

            How could they decide whether or not the writings of the two ministers had given sufficient reason to suspect their doctrinal soundness to be subjected to an official inquisition by synod?

            The Reverend Hoeksema, therefore, suggested that the various doctrinal questions involved should be openly discussed on the floor of the classis.  He begged the classis to debate with him.  He implored the gathering to appoint one of their number, preferably of those that entertained doubts as to the pastor’s doctrinal soundness, to discuss the points of issue with him before the whole meeting.  He offered to defend his views as thoroughly Reformed over against any six of the delegates the classis might appoint.

            It was all in vain.

            Classis desired no open discussion on the matter.  It adopted the substitute motion of Doctor Meeter without having deliberated on its contents.

            The following day, May 22, the classis began a discussion of the protest filed by the three members of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  The reader will remember that the consistory had refused to acknowledge the ground on which they had presented their protest to that body, the allegation that it dealt with a public sin on the part of the pastor.

            On the same ground, together with the added reason that the consistory had refused to receive it they now presented their protest to the classis.  Besides the original protest, they presented to the classis an elucidation of their appeal and a second protest against the censure that had been imposed upon them by the consistory because of their accusation of public sin against the pastor.

            The purpose of the appealing protestants was clear.

            Regarding their original protest they demanded, not merely that the classis should give advice as to whether or not the consistory was right in refusing to receive it on the ground on which it was presented, the alleged public sin of the pastor, but that the classis should treat the contents of the protest and thus directly submit the pastor to an examination and to classical discipline.

            And with respect to their censure they demanded that the classis should advise the consistory that it should be lifted.

            The reader will readily understand that, in case the classis would accede to the request of the appellants, it would violate two fundamental rules.

            First of all, it would set aside the rule of Art. 30 of the Church Order: “In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies, or such as pertain to the churches of the major assembly in common.”  The classis, under this rule, certainly had jurisdiction to express itself on the question whether or not the consistory had the right to refuse to receive the protest of the appellants on the ground on which they had presented it; but it could not possibly treat the matter of the protest proper.  Even if the classis should decide that the consistory were obliged to receive the protest under the circumstances, it still would have to refer the matter back to the consistory for the simple reason that it had not been proven that the latter assembly was not able to finish it.

            And secondly, it would assume the stand of the protestants, the public sin of the pastor, thereby beg the question as to whether or not the denial of common grace were a sin, and thus condemn the pastor before he had a hearing.

            The consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church presented to classis a counter protest in which they strenuously maintained that the matter presented to classis by the appellants was not properly a matter for the classis to act upon, but was certainly a consistorial matter.  The consistory, therefore, warned the classis not to treat the protest and thus trample upon the rights of the consistory.  They explained that they had rightly refused to receive the protest as long as the ground upon which its acceptance was demanded was the allegation of the pastor’s public sin.  They informed the classis that they were entirely willing to receive a protest; but that they could not possibly receive an accusation of public sin.  And they attempted to make clear to the classis the difference between a protest and an accusation of public sin.  That the pastor’s preaching and teaching werepublic they, of course, admitted.  That, however, this public preaching and instruction were a sin they did not concede to the protestants.  This would be a matter of investigation and this investigation they were wholly willing to conduct.  But what was to be a matter of investigation could not be assumed before hand as already established and, therefore, could not possibly serve as a ground upon which the consistory could accept the protest.  Besides, the consistory referred the classis to Art. 30 of the Church Order, and maintained that the exercise of discipline over a pastor certainly is, in the first instance, a matter for the minor, not for the major assembly.

            Classis, however, turned a deaf ear to the plea of the consistory.

            After the protest of the appellants had been received and read Doctor H. H. Meeter made the motion “that the classis treat the matter of the protest.”

            For a proper understanding of the sequel of this matter it is necessary to note that this motion was presented upon the ground that the consistory had had ample time to treat the protest.

            The motion was adopted.

            And had the classis had the courage of what appeared to be its conviction on the afternoon of May 22, 1924, the break of the Eastern Ave. Church with Classis Grand Rapids East, would have been an accomplished fact on that date.

            The consistory was firmly convinced of the autonomy of the local church.  It would have nothing of the collegialistic church polity that considered the classis as a higher judicatory than the consistory.

            Foreseeing the possibility that classis might ignore its plea and decide to treat the protest of the appellants, it had instructed its delegates, that in case the classis should assume such authority they should deliver a written protest and leave the meeting.

            In the written protest which the consistory had prepared for this possible turn of events it explained to classis, that it could not permit the major assembly to trample upon the rights and obligations of the duly installed office-bearers of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And this the classis surely attempted to do by taking out of the consistory’s hands a matter that so plainly belonged to the latter’s jurisdiction only.  The only course, therefore, that was left for the consistory to take was to cast off this hierarchical yoke and instruct its delegates no longer to act as its representatives at the meeting of classis.  And, besides, the consistory pointed out that by the decision of classis to treat the protest, which demanded nothing less than the discipline of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, the latter had really become defendant and could not very well sit as judge in his own case.  The consistory, therefore, kindly requested the classis to inform them of their decision in the matter concerning their pastor as soon as such decision were reached.

            The delegates, the pastor and Elder O. Van Ellen, acted as they were instructed.  They calmly presented the protest of their consistory to the chairman of the classis and made their departure.

            From that moment the classis, instead of acting in accordance with its own decision, attempted to make an honorable retreat.

            What the clearest argument had not been able to effect was evidently accomplished by the departure of the delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church: the classis began to see its own foolishness.  It hesitated; it became confused.  On the same afternoon the delegates that had departed received a classical delegation urging them to return.  The delegates, however, replied that they would never return unless the classis would first rescind its decision regarding the protest.

            All that afternoon and even an evening session, conducted with closed doors, the classis spent in wrangling and debating about the legality of its own decision and a possible plan of action.

            The next morning classis convened in the Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church.  It is alleged that the change of meeting-place was motivated by fear of an uproar among the members of the Eastern Avenue Church, although there was not the slightest reason for such fear.  For, although the members of the Eastern Avenue congregation manifested a keen interest in the proceedings, their conduct was not characterized by disorder whatsoever.

            Finally, after well-nigh the entire forenoon of May 23 had been devoted to a continuation of the discussion of the previous afternoon and evening, the classis reached the following remarkable decision: it expressed that it had never decided to treat the protest and enter into its subject matter!

            Along what meanderings of argumentation the classis had discovered this way out of the labyrinth, it is impossible to describe since the classis met with closed doors and there were no witnesses.  For the same reason it is equally beyond our power to analyze the various sophistries that must have convinced the classis of the truth of this last decision.  Suffice it to remind the reader of the fact that the principle of the primacy of the intellect does not always hold, and that the human mind is easily inclined to see matters as the desires of the heart dictate.

            However this may be, this final decision of the classis certainly did not fit the facts.  For, had not classis on the previous day decided, after it had received and read the protest, that it would treat the matter of the protest?  And was not the alleged ground for this decision that the consistory had had ample time to treat it?

            And, surely, the delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church might have winked at this “error” of the classis and permitted that body to make this honorable retreat out of a difficult corner; were it not for the fact that by this decision the departure of the two delegates from the meeting was placed in a rather peculiar light, as if the entire matter had been a misunderstanding on their part!

            Classis sent a delegation, of which Doctor Meeter, who had presented the original motion, was a member, to the pastor of Eastern Avenue, to inform him of this last decision, and to persuade him that the way was entirely clear for him to return to the meeting of classis.

            The pastor, however, could not be persuaded.  He was naturally indignant at such evident hypocrisy.  He answered the delegates that he could not be satisfied with what was so plainly a falsehood.  He promised the delegation, however, that immediately after the hour of noon he would appear before the gathering of classis to convince them of their error.  And this he did.  To the evident satisfaction of the classis he made plain: first, that classis certainly had passed the motion to treat the protest of the three appellants, and that this was abundantly evident from the ground that had been adduced, viz., that the consistory had had ample time to treat it; secondly, that there were but two ways open to the classis; rescind the decision of the previous day or treat the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church; that the delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church could not and would not return unless the action of the previous day were repealed.

            Classis saw the light.

            And it decided to rescind its action concerning the protest of the three appellants.  And it further determined that the protest should be referred back to the consistory.

            The same decision was reached with reference to the protests of the Reverends J. K. Van Baalen and J. Vander Mey, who, as the reader will remember, had also appealed to classis.

            All the protestants disagreed with these decisions of the classis and informed that body that most probably they would appeal to synod.

            Classis, therefore, had really acted unfavorably on all the protests of the appellants.  The latter had failed to reach their objective.

            The major assembly, however, made one serious error, that would prove to the cause of considerable trouble in the future.

            Before the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church, who was called to conduct a funeral on that afternoon of May 23, could return to the meeting of the classis it had decided that the censure of the three protestants that accused their pastor of a public sin should be lifted.

            It as certain that the consistory would not follow up that advice unless the censured members retract their accusation and change their attitude over against their pastor.

            Further conflict between the classis and the consistory was inevitable.

            It had been an extraordinary busy classis.

            Not often in its history had it occurred that there was much more to be discussed than the usual routine business, to finish which one day was ordinarily more than sufficient.

            This time, the classis had been in session for three days!

            And it was late.  The clock in the auditorium of the Sherman Street Church almost pointed to the hour of midnight.

            Then, too, the delegates were weary.

            Yet, one of the delegates at this late hour remembered the rule, which, though it is most frequently forgotten, is, nevertheless, very sound and salutary to preserve the proper brotherly relationship among the delegates to a major assembly, that at the close of its session classis should exercise censure over its members in case, in the heat of their discussions, they should have expressed themselves improperly or in an unbrotherly fashion. He recalled that the Reverend H. Hoeksema had dropped the remark that even among Christian Reformed ministers one would have “to search with a candle” for true Reformed preaching!  (The Dutch idiom is: met een kaarsje zoeken).  And he presented a motion to request of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church that he retract this statement!

            Dissension arose among the brethren about the question, whether the guilty pastor had used the expression “with a lantern” or “with a candle.”

            This threatened to become the occasion of a lengthy debate, despite the advanced hour of the night.

            The pastor concerned proposed the following amendment to the motion: “Unless he can prove the truth of his statement.”

            Then the matter was dropped and the meeting adjourned.

            And thus we may close this part of our history with an anecdote.

            The First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., belonged to that group of churches that sent its delegates to Classis Grand Rapids West.

            Of that church, as the reader will recall, the Reverend H. Danhof was pastor.

            As the consistories of the Eastern Avenue Church and of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo had taken joint action with reference to the protest of the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen, it is readily understood that the latter had also appealed to Classis Grand Rapids West.

            That body assembled a few days after the sessions of Classis Grand Rapids East, just described, in the La Grave Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.  With respect to the common grace question only the protest of the Reverend Van Baalen appeared on its agendum.

            Its program, therefore, was much simpler than that of Classis Grand Rapids East.  And its sessions lasted only one day.

            In the case, Van Baalen vs. Danhof, it reached a rather extraordinary decision.

            After considerable wrangling it was decided: 1. That a colloquy or personal conference should be arranged between the brethren Danhof and Van Baalen for the purpose of discussing the matter of the protest of the latter against the former’s teachings.  2.  That after this colloquy was held between the two brethren and no satisfactory conclusions were reached, the Reverend Van Baalen would have the opportunity immediately to bring the matter of his protest to the attention of the consistory of the First Christian Reformed church of Kalamazoo.  3.  That, in case the Reverend Van Baalen were not satisfied with the action of the consistory in the case, he would have the privilege of calling a special meeting of Classis Grand  Rapids West on June 10, 1924.

            This was a rather strange decision.

            There was, of course, nothing strange or improper in the decision that the protestant should first discuss the matter of his protest with his opponent.  It was, further, entirely proper that the protestant should have the opportunity to bring the matter of his protest to the attention of the consistory of Kalamazoo I, in case he were not satisfied with the results of the personal conference.

            But it was certainly improper to offer the protestant the privilege of calling a special session of Classis Grand Rapids West at his pleasure.  This was all the more strange and improper in view of the fact, that the consistory of Kalamazoo I had offered to the protestant virtually the same proposition, which offer had been flatly refused by the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen.

            The outcome was entirely as might be expected.

            The colloquy between the protestant and the Reverend H. Danhof was held.  There were no witnesses, so that the conversation cannot be recorded.  But the result was that the Reverend H. Danhof claimed that the protestant had no ground of accusation left; the latter insisted that he could not be satisfied and claimed that there was a discrepancy between the views of the Reverend H. Danhof as expressed in the personal conference and the views set forth in his public writings.

            And who, in view of the fact that there were no witnesses, was to decide in the matter?

            When, therefore, on the evening of the day when the colloquy was held the protestant brought the matter to the attention of the consistory of Kalamazoo I, that body appears to have followed the only possible course left to them, when they decided that the colloquy should be repeated in their presence.

            This, however, the Reverend Van Baalen refused.

            He called for the special meeting of Classis Grand Rapids West on June 10, 1924.

            And now the classis decided that the Reverend Van Baalen should address his protest to Synod directly, seeing it concerned a matter that was of import to the churches in general.

            Looking back upon this part of our history, one naturally contemplates the possibility that the two classes had taken a definite stand in the matter of common grace, had acted favorably upon the protests that were presented and had advised that the two pastors concerned should be disciplined.

            How different would have been the course of events!

            And how different, too, would have been this history, if Classis grand Rapids East had had the courage of its conviction when the Eastern Avenue delegates had left the meeting.

            Even then, the separation seemed imminent.

            Yet, thus it was not the will of God!  And glancing back, it is not difficult to acknowledge that the Lord’s way was the best way.

            His be the glory!

Chapter 2 - A furious storm of protests and accusations.

The beginning of the year 1924 introduced a period of busy and troublesome days for the consistories of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., and of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.

            Days were impending in which their affirmative response to the question, whether they did not feel in their hearts that they were “lawfully called of God’s Church, and consequently, of God Himself” to their respective holy offices, would acquire a new meaning, and would be severely put to the test.

            They were days when excited and very impatient protestants would call upon them to consider highly important problems of a doctrinal and church-political nature, yet would allow them no time to deliberate calmly upon these questions.

            It was a time of long and many special sessions of the consistories, especially for the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And it was a period when it behooved them that were called to watch over the flock to look diligently, lest the roots of bitterness that were springing up at sundry spots in the flock of Christ’s Church and that wee being carefully cultivated by evil spirits of hatred and envy, would trouble the congregation and thereby many be defiled.

            Days they were when the most deliberate would occasionally be inclined hastily to take a step in the wrong direction; when the most self-possessed might well lose his mental equilibrium.

            An epoch of Sturm Und Drang!

            It was the nineteenth of January by the calendar and Saturday morning.

            Three men, members of the Eastern Avenue congregation, whose names, J. De Hoog, W. Hoeksema and H. Vander Vennen, are worthy to be preserved on the pages of this history because of the part they played in it, were calling on their pastor, the Reverend H. Hoeksema, and gathered with him in the parlor of the parsonage.

            They revealed that they had serious objections against the views and teachings of their pastor as expressed in his preaching and writings.

            However, he would be mistaken that would now draw the conclusion that they had come to visit their pastor in order to unburden their hearts, to discuss the matters that so heavily weighed upon their soul with him, or even to deliver a brotherly and Christian admonition.

            They hastened to state that they had committed their objections to writing and that the purpose of their present visit was merely to deliver a written protest; and they added, that they would like to be favored with a reply as soon as possible.

            When the pastor had received this protest and hastily perused it, he called the attention of the protestants to the fact that their document had been addressed by them, not to the pastor, but to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, and that, for this reason, he could not very well proceed in the matter seeing it was not proper for him alone to decide in matters that pertain to the consistory.  This apparently insignificant detail is worthy of notice, because it shows how far it was from the minds of these protestants to discuss their objections with their pastor.  From the very outset they were so determined upon the way of a legal ecclesiastical procedure, that a protest, pretended to be for the pastor personally, was addressed to the consistory.

            However, when their attention was called to this formal error, they amended their mistake and soon afterwards offered the same protest now addressed to the pastor.

            The pastor then expressed his desire to discuss the contents of their protest with the protestants personally and individually.  One of them, J. De Hoog, complied with this request, but when in a private conference in which the pastor asked for light upon certain parts of the protest that were not very clear to him, this particular protestant proved to be incapable of elucidating his own protest and rather evinced that he was but poorly acquainted with its contents.  The other protestants refused to discuss the matter with their pastor, unless they would be permitted to do so together.  This the pastor refused, first because he maintained that each of the protestants certainly was individually responsible for his protest; and, secondly, because the pastor suspected from the start that none of the three protestants was the final author of the written document they had delivered, and, if at all possible, the author ought to be lured from his hiding-place and called to account.  Later, this suspicion proved to be well grounded.  None of the three protestants had composed the protest.  Much later, through a forced testimony in the worldly court, one of the protestants revealed that his brother, a neighboring pastor, the Reverend G. Hoeksema, was the writer of that first protest.

            The protestants, by this insistence of the pastor to discuss the matter of their protest with him individually and by their own aversion and refusal to do so, were compelled to change their ground of procedure, if they would carry out their original purpose of presenting their protest to the consistory.  They, therefore, alleged that they were under no obligation to discuss the matter  of their protest with their pastor according to the rule of Matthew 18.  For, they claimed, the matter really concerned a public sin on the part of the pastor, and as such they could lodge a complaint with the consistory against him directly.  And they now acted in accordance with this claim.  On the basis that the pastor had committed a public sin they lodged their protest with the consistory and demanded of that body that they should treat the pastor.

            This accusation on the part of the protestants of a public sin against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was destined to become an important factor in the future development of this history.

            The consistory could not accept the ground on which the protestants claimed to possess the right to file their protest with that body, without a previous discussion with the accused pastor according to Matthew 18. They could not receive the protest because they could not admit the ground on which it was offered: the public sin of the pastor.  The protestants were begging the question.  They demanded of the consistory to assume what was still to be proven.  They gave the protestants to understand that, of course, they were well aware of the fact that the preaching and teaching of the pastor were public; that, however, this teaching and preaching constituted a sin, in other words, that the pastor was guilty of teaching a false doctrine, they could not admit.  As to themselves, they were convinced of the very opposite and had always given testimony to that effect.  The burden of proof, therefore, rested with the protestants.  The very thing they demanded of the consistory to assume beforehand they were obliged to prove in their protest, viz., that in his teaching and preaching the pastor committed a public sin.  The consistory, therefore, asked of the protestants that they retract their accusation of public sin against the pastor.  And when they refused to comply with this demand of the consistory, they were told that they would have to refrain from partaking of the Lord’s Supper, on the ground that with this accusation of public sin against the pastor in their hearts they could not very well partake of communion with him.

            The minutes of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church inform us that at their meeting of April 24, 1924, another protest was filed by the protestants mentioned above.  In this protest they reiterated in the most emphatic language their accusation of public sin against their pastor, referring even to Articles 79 and 80 of the Church Order; secondly, they demanded of the consistory that, while they maintained their accusation against the pastor, their censure should be lifted and they should be allowed to partake of communion; and, thirdly, they notified the consistory that, if their demands should be refused, they would appeal to the classis.  The consistory decided to abide by its former decision in this matter and the three protestants carried out their appeal to Classis Grand Rapids East, which convened on May 21.

            In the meantime the consistory had received another protest of a similar nature.

            This time the protestant was Reverend J. Vander Mey, minister without a charge and, therefore, no minister at all, financial secretary of the Theological School and member of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

            The story of this protest is briefly as follows:

            On that morning of January 19, when the first three protestants visited their pastor and delivered their protest to him, they informed him that also Mr. J. Vander Mey had declared his intention of signing their protest. A few days later, however, Mr. Vander Mey, who at that time was in Chicago, Ill., wrote a latter to his pastor in which he informed him that he was not quite ready to affix his signature to the protest of the three brethren, but that he would prefer a personal conference with the pastor before he took any definite action.  In the same missive, however, he accused the pastor of a wrong conception of God, an erroneous view of Holy Scripture and a mistaken view of life in this world.  After Mr. Vander Mey had returned from Chicago, however, he appeared to be in no particular hurry to make arrangements for the personal conversation he had proposed in his letter, and the conference was not held til the beginning of April.  In this interview the pastor reminded Mr. Vander Mey of the threefold indictment he made against him in the letter referred to above, and demanded that he should prove the accusation or retract.  In the course of the conversation it became plainly evident, to the satisfaction of the accused and the accuser, that the latter was not able to sustain his indictments; yet he refused to retract them.  The pastor then asked him, whether he still intended to sign the protest of the first three protestants, to which he replied in the negative.  Nor did he intimate that he entertained the slightest intention of preparing a separate protest.  The impression he left was rather that he felt quite incapable of defending his first accusation and of sustaining them in the light of the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions.

            Imagine, then, the surprise of the pastor, when at the following consistory meeting he was informed that Mr. Vander Mey had filed a protest against him!  The pastor informed the consistory of what had taken place between Mr. Vander Mey and himself and that the former had not delivered a copy to the pastor of his protest so that the latter was wholly ignorant of its contents.  the consistory informed the protestant that he would have to comply with the rule, which required of him to present a copy of his protest to the pastor before he could file it with the consistory.  Thereupon Mr. Vander Mey had his protest printed.  And though, when the consistory inquired into the matter, he at first insisted that he had kept the matter private and had not distributed copies of the printed protest, persistent questioning finally made him admit that, while he had five hundred copies printed, he had approximately four hundred of them still in his possession.  Let the reader judge whether the consistory was right when it judged that by his action Mr. Vander Mey had become guilty of making secret and false propaganda against his pastor and demanded of him that he should confess his sin.  He refused, however, to comply with the demand of the consistory and informed them that he also would file his protest with the classis at its meeting of May 21.

            The protest of Mr. Vander Mey contained five alleged objections against the views of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.

            The first objection concerned the pastor’s conception of God.  The protestant objected particularly to the pastor’s view that the grace of God is at all times particular, that is, that He is gracious to the elect only and not to the ungodly reprobate.  Though this is simply the plain teaching of Holy Writ and of the Reformed Confessions, Mr. Vander Mey did not hesitate to declare that he considered this a horrible doctrine, that he abhorred it and would always witness against it.  On his part he maintained the view that God loves and is gracious to all men without distinction, that is, in this world and with respect to the things pertaining to this present life.  It is noteworthy that he, too, refers to the “well-meant offer of salvation on the part of God to everybody,” as a proof of this general or common grace of God.  Secondly, the protestant objected to the pastor’s excessive emphasis on the doctrine of predestination and on the counsel of God in general.  In the preaching and teaching of the pastor, man’s responsibility is not sufficiently emphasized, according to Mr. Vander Mey’s protest, though he admits that he is not able to prove that the pastor denies man’s accountability.  Thirdly, the pastor was accused of maintaining and teaching a wrong world-and-life view.  The natural man is incapable of doing any good at all, and always sins.  The good of the world, as manifested in science and art, in philanthropy, social reform and in many other movements and deeds, is not properly appreciated by the pastor.  He denies that God restrains the process of sin in man and that by virtue of this restraint the natural man is able to do much good.  Mr. Vander Mey, on the other hand, insisted that, although the sinner is inclined to evil, he still is capable of performing many good works and actually accomplishes much good in this world, so that he even puts to shame the child of God.  The fourth objection alleged that the pastor fails to sound the true gospel note in his preaching.  The earnest invitation and well-meant offer of salvation to all are lacking.  Mr. Vander Mey was convinced that God offers salvation to all men promiscuously and that in this offer He reveals His sincere willingness to save all that hear.  Thus, we are able, he declared in his protest, to gain our neighbor for Christ; to win souls for Jesus is the work of men.  The fifth and last objection against the pastor was that he makes the second table of the law of none effect.  The pastor teaches that we must hate those that hate God, while Mr. Vander Mey denied this and defended the view that we must love all men without distinction.  According to the pastor’s view there is no room for fellowship with the world in the battle for truth and righteousness; while Mr. Vander Mey would defend the very opposite and maintain that the ungodly often stand on a higher level than the people of God.

            The entire protest is one strong plea for common grace over against particular grace, for the good works of the ungodly in opposition to the doctrine of total depravity; a plea, too, for appreciation of the good works of the ungodly and for fellowship with the world in opposition to the antithetical view of life and the separation of light and darkness.

            About this time still another protest was filed with both the consistories of the Eastern Avenue Church and of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich.  The author of it was the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen of Munster, Ind.  And it was directed against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema combined.

            Like the protest by Mr. Vander Mey that of the Reverend Van Baalen mentioned five objections against the teachings of the two pastors. The first is that the accused pastors deny that God is gracious to the ungodly reprobate.  This the protestant considers the chief error of his opponents.  The second error is closely related to the first and consists in the fact that, according to the protestant, the two accused ministers co-ordinate election and reprobation.  Van Baalen's third objection concerns the denial of the restraint of sin through an influence of God's common grace.  Again, closely related to the third objection stands the fourth, against the denial by the two pastors that man is able to perform any good works.  And his final grievance is rather of a practical nature.  The indicted pastors accused many officebearers in the Christian Reformed Churches as well as of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands of being unreformed in doctrine and worldly minded in life and walk.  Thus Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen formulated his grievances.  And he earnestly requested the consistories to treat their pastors accordingly, and expressed the sincere hope that they might succeed to persuade them to recant and to turn them from their way of error!

        Acting upon a suggestion of the consistory of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, both the consistories concerned served the protestant with a combined answer, in which they offered him the opportunity on April 22, to discuss the matter of his protest with the two pastors involved; and in which they informed him, that, if after such an all-day discussion the protestant was not satisfied, opportunity would be given him in the evening of the same day to present is objections to the respective consistories.  The consistories were convinced, not only that this was the proper way of procedure, but also that through the means of such a personal conversation many if not all of the objections of the Reverend Van Baalen could be removed.

            Such a meeting with the two pastors face to face the protestant however, refused.  And he let the consistories know, that if they did not furnish him with a final and definite reply to this protest before or on April 30, he would be constrained to appeal to the classes.  The consistories, however, did not alter their decision and the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen carried out his appeal.

            In this connection mention must be made of the document that pretended to be an overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church at Kellogsville and was composed by the Reverend M. M. Schans, not, however, without the cooperation of others, as he himself confessed.

            The Rev. M. M. Schans had never openly voiced objections against the views of his fellow-minister, the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  Never had he discussed any doctrinal questions with him personally.  Never had he, or any of his associates in the matter declared his intention of protesting against the views of the Rev. H. Hoeksema.  Nor had he had the decency of offering a copy of his protest to the pastor concerned.

            Yet it appeared before the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church!

            And it was received and acted upon by Classis Grand Rapids East!

            It appeared in the form of a printed pamphlet.  On the first page one may read in heavy capital letters: "Overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church of Kellogsville, Mich."  Fact is, however, that its contents never were adopted by the consistory of the church at Kellogsville.  The author of this history was informed later by the clerk of that consistory, that the Rev. M. M. Schans had, indeed, presented his protest or petition to his consistory and requested them to pass on it and send it through to Classis Grand Rapids East, but that by a majority vote the consistory had refused this request of their pastor.  This document, therefore, was not what it claimed to be, viz., an overture from the consistory of the church of Kellogsville.

            Nevertheless, copies of this pretended overture were distributed among all the consistories of Classis Grand Rapids East, in sufficient number  for each individual member of each consistory to receive one, some weeks before classis convened and even before the pastor concerned was aware of the fact that such a document against him had been composed and circulated!

            The pastor that was personally concerned in this "overture" first learned of the activities of the Reverend Schans against him, when he filled a classical appointment at East Martin, Mich.  In the home of one of the consistory of that church, with whom the Reverend H. Hoeksema took dinner that day, he found a copy of this document.  When he expressed his amazement at this discovery to the elder, the latter was in turn surprised that the Reverend H. Hoeksema was ignorant of this matter of the "overture" and informed him that it had already been circulated through the classis by the stated clerk, so that each member of all the consistories possessed a copy!

            The Reverend Schans, therefore, had really ignored and trampled under foot all rules of order, not to speak now of his brotherly obligations, by distributing copies of a protest among the members of the consistories belonging to Classis Grand Rapids East, before said protest had been formally received by the classis and declared legal by that body, and before he had even breathed of his purpose to the pastor involved.

            As to the contents of this document, it pretended to be a mere petition, although it certainly implied several accusations against the Pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.  It openly expressed serious doubt with respect to the orthodoxy of the two ministers, and it requested the classis to send an overture to synod, petitioning that body to examine the two pastors on several points of doctrine.  The first of these points of doctrine concerned the well-meaning offer of salvation in the preaching of the gospel.  It is rather striking that this objection appeared in all the protests that were filed.  And it reveals how widespread was the Arminian view that salvation is an offer on the part of God to all among the ministers of the Christian Reformed Churches at that time.  The views of the late Professor Heyns had struck root!  The second point on which the two pastors were to be questioned concerned the doctrine of election and reprobation.  the petitioner discovered an over-emphasis on these matters in the teachings of the suspected pastors.  Thirdly, the "overture" would have the two pastors examined on the question of the restraint of sin.  It is curious to note that, although the three forms of unity certainly do not speak of any restraint of the process and influence of sin, all the protests tacitly assume that this error is reformed truth!  Fourthly, the two ministers were suspected on the point of civic righteousness.  Fifthly the petition requested that the two pastors should be questioned on the score of the responsibility of man. And,, finally, the subject of God's all over-ruling providence was mentioned in the petition as a line along which the proposed examination might be conducted. 

            Further, to make quite sure that no remnant of heresy would be left in the two pastors, the "overture of Kellogsville" would have classis to petition synod, after the two suspects had passed a satisfactory examination , also to investigate the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, and if anything objectionable should be found in these writings to demand of their authors that they recant.

            It seems to us as we review these protests and their contents, that any unprejudiced reader must be strangely impressed with the fact that such protests could actually originate with men that pretended to defend the reformed truth!

            Or does it not sound unbelievable that in the name of reformed truth it is possible to protest as follows:

            1. Against particular grace in favor of common grace.

            2. Against efficacious grace in favor of a well-meaning offer.

            3. Against emphasis on predestination in favor of man’s responsibility.

            4. Against insistence on total depravity in favor of the good that sinners do?

            Yet, when one expresses the matter briefly and succinctly, shorn of all sophistries, the above were the chief features of all the protests that were filed with Classis Grand Rapids East, that convened on May 21, 1924.

            And if the matter of these protest had been hurried by the protestants in order to have it determined by the classis, from now on it required more haste still.

            For, the classis convened only a few weeks before the opening of synod!

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